Though I may have missed the summer solstice this year in England, its winter counterpart in South Africa did not disappoint, paving a good end to the first part of my travels, before my volunteering period starts.
I have been fairly busy in Cape Town but Mosselbaai (or “Mossel Bay”) proved to be the place where I am able to finally relax and unwind after weeks of being ‘busy’.
Mosselbaai is 5-6 hours on the coach from Cape Town. A usually booming sea side town on the Garden Route, the winter months are quieter, with my hostel housing only about 5 people during my stay. I have been told that it is an industrialised town, a reason for its small occupancy and limited facilities, but places nearby were of interest, making Mosselbaai a great entrance to the Garden Route.
Winter solstice 2015 saw a lot of firsts. I prepared my first breakfast during my trip thus far, as I was not impressed with the free breakfast on offer at the hostel (bread, marmalade, eggs and margarine). I was crazily efficient and forward-thinking when packing and I was thankful I brought some oats, nutritional yeast and ground flax for my travels. So, breakfast was porridge made with hot water, topped with a tablespoon of ground flax, 2 fresh figs and 1 banana. I also added some ButtaNutt Chocolate Macadamia spread (review to come) which I bought from a Wellness Warehouse (equivalent of a Holland and Barrett) branch in CT.
I had to be up at 5:30 a.m. to be picked up for a game drive at Botlierskop Private Game Reserve. Tucked in the valleys just 30 minutes from Mosselbaai, Botlierskop has 4 of the ‘Big 5’ in their sanctuary, which has been recommended by many, including bloggers and tour operators (who often comply with the ‘Volunteers in Africa Beware’ list to ensure they do not promote or visit reserves and sanctuaries involved with the cruel treatment of animals).
My guided game drive was roughly 3 hours long in a 4 x 4 vehicle. As the temperatures dropped to 3oC when we got to the valleys, jackets and fleeces were in abundance, and our driver/guide was kind enough to provide each of us a warm blanket. We spotted varying forms of antelopes, wildebeests, elephants, some retired lions, giraffes, rhinos and horses at this large reserve. The drive was long, so it gave a perfect excuse to snack on a O’Natural Raw Cacao energy bar (review to come), another Wellness Warehouse find.
After lunch, I headed to Botlierskop’s sister site, Zorgfontein, for a 45-minute walk with a female and male lion, named Lila and Mufasa, respectively.
The walk was with an experienced guide and 4 handlers, one of whom had a backpack filled with fresh meat for the lions, a reason why bags were not permitted during the walk. The walk itself was glorious, as the afternoon sun came out just in time to warm us up after the morning’s nippy start. It allowed us to observe many different behavioural aspects of the lions, as well as learn a few interesting facts or so. I am sure to bombard the next people I meet with many lion facts.
Returning to the hostel for my last night at Mosselbaai, I visited a highly recommended braai restaurant overlooking the sea, Kaai 4. Set up by the beach with sand, fire and outdoor braai facility, this quintessential sea side gem won me over with their hake dish, served with roosterkoek, a traditional South African bread, and some side salad. Their friendly staff and unprecedented location for watching the sunset along the Garden Route topped an amazing day.
How did you celebrate the winter or summer solstice?
Julia | themorningbowl. Follow me on Instagram: @themorningbowl