Louisa Claire

Travel

Introducing “the wild!”

Bliss likes to refer to our time at The Bush House in Madikwe Game Reserve as our time in “the wild”. It’s not hard to figure out why she has this perspective! If you were following along our holiday via #teammaz13 on Instagram you will have already gleaned how amazing our time at Madikwe was. To say that we were in awe by what we saw there doesn’t come close to conveying just what an incredible experience it was for us all.

I feel compelled to mention our hosts at the reserve – the amazing team from The Bush House could not have made our time there more wonderful. The service, the food, their genuine hospitality was beyond our wildest expectations. Traveling in a large group (there were 15 of us at The Bush House) can be a logistical challenge, especially when three of those 15 are under 5 years, old but Sue and her team were delightful and endlessly accommodating. I cannot recommend them more highly!

Within 20 minutes of arriving at The Bush House we were quickly called to come outside to the waterhole…some new friends had come to greet us! In reality we could have sat on our bed and looked out at these elephants, such is the set up at The Bush House.

Elephants Waterhole small2

3 elephants at waterhole

 

The way it worked was that each day there were 2 drives, one early in the morning and one at sunset. During the middle of the day there was a pool to swim in, fenced walks to take or a nap to be had! The waterhole pictured above is in full view of the pool, lawn, dining area and several of the bedrooms (including ours) so that as the animals came and went during the day we could observe them. There was also an underground viewing area which landed you so close to the animals you could have reached out an touched them.

Age limits tend to apply to going on the game drives as you really need to be quiet when close to the animals (The Bush House normally requires children to be aged 8 or over). As our party had booked out the entire lodge they were happy for us to decide about whether the children came along and we chose to bring them on 2 of the 5 drives. Each drive lasted between 3-3.5hours which is a long time for little people but they did a great job (despite Bear’s decision to sing out “Hi-iii!” to the pride of lions eating a zebra).

kids safari 2
 Our drivers were both lovely and very knowledgeable which made the drives quite interesting. Even the kids picked up new facts about animals, it’s amazing how closely they listen!

In the cars we were quite safe, the animals noticed us but are used to cars driving by so as long as you stay quiet and move slowly you are fine. In fact, we were able to get quite close the animals, this picture gives you an idea of just how close…

Lion car 

 

Despite being safe, the animals at times did let us know if they were unhappy. This elephant was in “must” aka heat and he was seriously unhappy about us driving past him. We had both kids in the car with us at this point and I did find it quite scary. While the rest of us were saying silent prayers and gripping the children, the Architect managed to get these shots – you can see how close we are as the elephant has turned and started walking quickly toward us before trumpeting at us and rearing his front legs.

 Angry Elephants x 2

This lion was referred to as the “grumpy old lady” and she growled at us and had walked up and bumped into one of the previous cars that had been nearby – very glad she didn’t do that to us!

Grumpy Lady Lion
 

We were incredibly fortunate to see a rhino on our last drive. I had not realised that rhino’s were so close to extinction due to poaching – the poachers kill these magnificent animals in horrific ways by tranquilising them so that they can’t move but not actually killing them. They then cut off their horns and leave the animals to die. It’s horrendous! At the current rate of poaching, by 2015 it won’t be possible to save them. The more rare the horns are, the more money they are worth and so rhinos are not even safe in captivity, even museums have been broken into just to secure the horns. The horns (made from the same thing that our fingernails and toenails are made from) are believed (wrongly) to cure cancer amongst other medical remedies. It’s all quite bizarre really, why cause an species that you believe to be powerful to become extinct? Short term thinking there people!! Most places we went to in South Africa were talking about the plight of the rhinos and all the South Africans we talked about the issue with found it quite upsetting.

So sad, they are truly amazing creatures…

rhino madikwe, elephant and rhino, madikwe game reserve
 

rhino walking, south africa rhinos, madikwe rhino

 
If you ever get the opportunity to visit a game reserve, do it. What an incredible experience!!

 

Is an experience like this on your bucket list?

 

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One (very big) Aussie Family in South Africa

Having just returned from our three week visit to South Africa I remain in awe of this country that is so beautiful and diverse and embracing. I feel so blessed to have been able to have had this time there, to explore it anew with the kids and the Architect and to reconnect with my South African family.

Our journey took us from the top of the country at Madikwe Game Reserve to the very bottom, the simply breathtaking Cape Town. It was everything from game parks to cities with a farm holiday in the middle. We even popped over the border to Botswana one afternoon to have a look around the town of Gaborone – home to the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency.

I created this little map for you to give you an idea of where we went and how South Africa is laid out…

SA Map of Trip 2
 

As I wade through the many, many photos we took I hope to share some of this journey with you. South Africa is a country you can’t help but fall in love with and I really hope that you will see some of her beauty and perhaps be inspired to visit yourself one day.

 

 

Madikwe Game Reserve, African Sunset, The Bush House

Sunset at Madikwe Game Reserve

 


Elephants and a Rhino

Elephants take a drink as a Rhino saunters by in the background

 

cape town view, table mountain view, table mountain

The view of Cape Town from the top of Table Mountain


camps bay, camps bay sunset

The main drag of Camps Bay, Cape Town at dusk


camps bay sunset, camps bay beach, camps bay

Bliss loved dancing on the beach at sunset, Camps Bay

Taking kids on a trip like this was a bit of a huge task! Our usual MO travel with kids is to pick one, or at most two, places to visit and then set up camp and explore. This trip saw us staying in 4 different places with multiple day trips on top of that. The kids held up incredibly well and soaked up all the amazing things they saw…. I think that’s what I love the most about travel with kids, the way their faces explode at the different experiences they have. Bear was both in awe and fear of the elephants at The Bush House in Madikwe. Look at how bright his eyes are!

Travel with kids, Madikwe Game Reserve, African Safari, South Africa

 

Do you have an African dream? What is it??

Stay tuned for more African adventures later this week…


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24hours in South Africa

When visiting a South African game reserve as part of our trip was first mentioned I confess I wasn't too fazed. I had it in my head that you could go to a game reserve and not see anything other than a range of buck. This may still be true but I am absolutely reeling from the things we have seen here at Madikwe Game Reserve in only 24 hours.

Upon our arrival yesterday afternoon a herd of elephants came right up to the waterhole for a drink. We stood literally 1 meter from them as they frollicked, drank and as one calf fed from her mother – it was incredible!! They have been regularly visiting the waterhole since then and we continue to be awed by them!

This morning we took the kids on a drive and came across a pride of lions including a number of cubs feeding on a Zebra they had caught. We sat only a few meters from these animals as they ate, play fought and the matriarch (referred to by the guides as a “cranky old lady”) growled at us. It was full on!! Bear gave us all a heart attack by calling out “Hi!” in a delightful sing song voice as we drove up – he was quickly made aware that no. talking. was. allowed!!!

We've seen an amazing array of animals (including a variety of buck!) in such a short time I can hardly believe it! Some of the more noteworthy animals have been buffalo, rhino, a brown hyena, giraffes, zebra and mating baboons!!

I'll be sharing some photos today on Facebook and you can also have a look on Instagram via the hashtag #teammaz13 – I hope you are enjoying getting to join in on this trip virtually!

Have you been to a game park? Which animal would you love to see in the wild?

 


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Come on a journey with me this Easter.

Travel makes me happy. Perhaps it is because as a child I would come to South Africa to visit Mum's family that a taste for the world was embedded in me from a young age but travel both energises and inspires me. I have always put any spare $$ into visiting amazing places around Australia and the world and with The Architect having the same experience regularly visiting Malaysia at a child it has been a shared priority for us as a couple and a family to keep travelling.

Of all the places I have visited the place that has had the biggest impact has been South Africa and I know I am not alone. Whether she's in your blood or not Africa seems to have a big impact on those who visit her.

And so it is that I invite you to meet her with me over the coming weeks.

On the weekend the family and I packed up and headed off on our South Africa adventure. We traveled from Aus with my parents, my sister and her partner, my uncle and his partner and my mums cousin and his wife. We met my brother and his partner in Joberg and my cousin and his wife will be joining us in Pietermaritzburg next week. All in all we are a group of 17!! It's fantastic to be all together!

Family holidays of this sort aren't the norm for us but this is a trip a decade in the making. My mum (Maz) though spending the last 39years in Australia, is a South African by birth and we are here for a big family reunion over Easter. There will be 61 members of the family present for Easter camp on some family land just outside of Maritzburg. It's going to be fun!

Though I have been to South Africa several times in my life it's been 11years since my last visit and it's the fist time for all the partners and children so we are going to a lot of fun things to explore this truly amazing country.

I am writing this as we travel up to the north of SA to spend three days at a game reserve and take a trip over to Botswana, home to the No.1 Ladies Detective Agency series. I am really excited about this experience and especially seeing the kids respond to such close animal encounters!

I hope you will enjoying getting to know South Africa with me over the coming weeks via the blog and holiday hashtag. I know, what kind of geek creates their own hashtag for a family holiday?! I'm owning the geek and inviting you to check in on our adventures via #teammaz13 on Instagram over the next couple of weeks. Let's start exploring!!

Have you been to Africa? What did you love or what do you want to know/see or do in this amazing place?

 


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5 Favourites from NYC…getting off the beaten track

We are well and truly back from NYC now, and having had the most marvellous time I wanted to share five of our favourite things…

This is the not the post to read if you want to find out all the hot touristy things to do in NYC – this is the post to read if you want to dig a little deeper and find out some of the other, less well known things that happen around the place.

1. Governor’s Island

Governor’s Island is one of the many public spaces around NYC. The Island is only open on the weekends and public holidays through summer and can be reached via a free ferry off the south of Manhattan.

It’s full of live music, amazing festivals and stunning views and best of all..it’s free to get there. Pack your own picnic, or buy food there – it’s a great way to spend a day in NYC!

 govenor's island

 

2. Williamsburg on a weekend

Gosh I wish we could be heading off to Williamsburg today…

Williamsburg is over in Brooklyn and there are just so many wonderful things to do there on a weekend! The streets are turned into mini-parks, there’s live music, flea markets and food stalls. It’s beautiful, relaxing and totally hipster(!)

Williamsburg on the weekend

3. Washington Square

Washington Square was a couple of blocks from our apartment and so we often found ourselves strolling down there, past The Epicurean deli where we would grab some bagels, fresh fruit and hot/cold brown drinks (I think the Americans call it coffee?!?) and starting the day in the quiet beauty. Come late afternoon Washington Square is a great place to take the kids for a cool down in the fountain…

Washington Square

On the weekends, this man brings a piano down into the square where it is played for hours…it’s quite magical. The square also seems to have a different fair happening each weekend with yummy food and amazing exhibitions/stands/presentations.

washington square

 

4. The Moth: True Stories Told Live

This was at the top of The Architect’s NYC wish list and I’m so glad he was in the know about it! The Moth is live storytelling that is also recorded and turned into a podcast – one The Architect listens to regularly. There’s nothing you can’t love about this! Basically a group of people show up ready to tell their story – they have a max of 5 minutes to do this. Throughout the night names are drawn from a bag and those who get called, get a chance to tell their story.  Those of us who aren’t so much into storytelling, just get to sit back and enjoy – and wow, the stories are really amazing. The story tellers are judged, a winner declared and the winner then goes on to a final round on another night. The Moth happens all around America, not just in NYC so it’s worth checking out the website if you are planning a trip to the states..and if you’re not, just get the podcast!

 

5. Peanut butter milkshakes at The Bowery Diner.

Have you had a peanut butter milkshake before? Have you even heard of such a thing? We hadn’t before NYC but I’ve got to say…they really are as good as they sound! (unless you have a peanut allergy of course, and then they probably don’t sound very good…)

The Bowery is an old-fashioned diner that made us feel like we were eating in the diner from Grease…this was very cool for The Architect and I and just another of the (pop) cultural references that went straight over the kids heads!

 peanut butter milkshake

But seriously…peanut butter milkshakes are AWESOME!

 

 Have you been to New York? What was your favourite “off the beaten track” experience?

 

 


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{Part 1} NYC in pics

I haven’t shared many pics of our trip to NYC, mainly because we didn’t take many (very unusual for us!) and because we really didn’t take many good ones. But, a holiday is a holiday and here’s a little snapshot of ours…

 

 

 

Getting her Broadway on!

 

 

This is how The Architect spent a lot of his time!


 
Childrens Museum of the Arts

 

 

So there you have it, a little glimpse into our NYC experience. Next time I’ll take a camera course before I go!


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