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South Africa

Family and Solo Travel Adventures of 2017

As we step into 2018, I’d like to take this time to thank you for following along and for your comments and questions on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and email. I hope that I’ve helped to answer all your mobile photography, camera and tech gear, and travel related questions.

I had some incredible family and solo travel adventures in 2017! I explored 2 new countries – Israel and Japan, returned to British Columbia, The Florida Keys twice, South Africa and Australia and visited new places at home in Ontario like Tobermory and Manitoulin Island, and we also saw the solar eclipse in totality on a spontaneous road trip to Kentucky and Tennessee.

We also returned to our favourite close-to-home destination, Niagara Falls. We spent time on both sides of the border. While my boys love playing the redemption games, we also enjoyed walking through Dufferin Island on the Canadian side in the Spring as well as chasing cherry blossoms, found some! In the summer, we ventured to the American side and visited Goat Island. It is a great place to visit as it gives you close-up views of both the American and Canadian Falls.

It was very much a year of incredible snorkelling adventures in the barrier reefs of the Florida Keys and Australia as well as the Red Sea in Eilat, Israel. My 7yo snorkelled for his first time, in Eilat and loved it. We ended our travel year with a trip to The Florida Keys where he embarked on his first open water snorkel trip. We went on 2 snorkel trips from Key Largo and one in the backwaters of Key West. Our favourite experience was our snorkel trip at Molasses Reef where we encountered sea turtles, Caribbean reef sharks and nurse sharks. He was over the moon with excitement and can’t wait to snorkel again. You can read more in my guide to snorkelling the Florida Keys here.

To recap and close out 2017, here are some of my favourite Instagram and mobile camera photos that were all shot on my iPhone 7+. In 2018, I look forward to continuing to inspire your family travels, solo trips and photography and show you more beautiful, nature and culture-rich destinations.

JANUARY

bahia honda tide
Moving tides at Bahia Honda State Park in the Florida Keys. A trip I did with my niece.

FEBRUARY

St James Beach Cape Town
Dusk at St. James Beach in Cape Town, South Africa. A solo trip to South Africa for The Heart of a Woman Project.
Penguins at Boulders Beach
Penguins at Boulders Beach in Cape Town, South Africa, Playing with portrait mode on the iPhone 7 plus.

MARCH

zebra in Kruger
A Zebra in Kruger National Park, South Africa. A self-drive trip I did with my South African travel writer & travel blogger friend Anje Rautenbach of Going Somewhere Slowly in March 2017. Check out her video here.
tea at mahane yehuda jerusalem
Tea at the Mahane Yehuda Market in Jerusalem. A family trip with my husband, 2 sons and father in March 2017, I travelled there after my trip to Kruger Park.
My oldest son and the Eilat Mountains in Southern Israel. We could see the Sinai Desert when we climbed a bit off the dusty road.
old town warsaw
Old Town Warsaw, Poland. A layover on my home way home from Israel.

APRIL

cherry blossoms canada
Found cherry blossoms in Niagara Falls, Canada.
Maid on the Mist in Niagara Falls. A family day trip from Toronto.

MAY

cherry blossoms Kariya Park Mississauga
On the hunt for more cherry blossoms. Found these at Kariya Park in Mississauga.

JUNE

Enchanted Forest
My son at The Enchanted Forest in British Columbia. A family trip to BC with my youngest son, father, aunt, and uncle to see relatives.

JULY

Beautiful art on the arena in Wikwemikong, the unceded territory on Manitoulin Island, Ontario. A trip with my best friend who was visiting Ontario from British Columbia with her family.
Balm Beach Ontario
Sunset in Balm Beach. Some of the most spectacular sunsets in Ontario happen right here, on Georgian Bay, traditional territory of the Anishnaabeg people. Balm Beach is our fave family beach in Ontario. A trip with my family and my best friend and her family who were visiting Ontario from British Columbia.
Tobermory Ontario
My oldest son on the rocks near the Big Tub Lighthouse in Tobermory, Ontario. My sons and I went on a spontaneous 2-night trip on the shores of Lake Huron chasing Aurora. We didn’t find her but found Tobermory.
Bruce Country Ontario
My oldest son in the canola fields of Bruce County, Ontario. This is part of the same trip with my 2 sons.

AUGUST

Manitou River Manitoulin Island
A peaceful spot by the Manitou River near Michael’s Bay on Manitoulin Island. A trip with my 2 sons and father to take in the annual Perseids meteor shower.
Sunflowers in Caledon, Ontario. Random Sunday drives with my husband and 2 sons.
clarksville tennessee for the solar eclipse
A spontaneous road trip to the USA where we experienced our first solar eclipse in totality. We found this spot in Clarksville, Tennessee by the Red River. This was
the light about 30 minutes before totality. The birds flocked, and the cicadas sang. It went to darkness and planets you don’t normally see, were seen. Hard to describe the feeling but we were in awe.

SEPTEMBER

Lakeside Park Oakville
Revisiting one of our favourite family parks in the Greater Toronto area, Lakeside Park in Oakville. September was all about back to school and TIFF. At the end of the month, I returned to Vancouver to visit my best friend before my trip to Australia and Japan.

OCTOBER

Heron Island Queensland Australia
Reef walking at low tide in the Great Barrier Reef off Heron Island in Queensland, Australia. Heron Island is a Coral Cay with the reef as your playground. I saw sharks, sea turtles, stingrays, many species of fish and sea cucumbers. I even found Nemo’s cousin. It was a return to Australia but this time as a solo traveller and my first time exploring Queensland and the GBR.
koala on the great ocean road
Rainforest views on Grey River Road in Kennet River. This was my favourite stop on the Great Ocean Road. Can you find the sleepy koala?
The 8 remaining limestone stacks of the Twelve Apostles. This is probably the most popular stop on the GOR drive and worth seeing in person.
The 5-story Yasaka Pagoda in Kyoto, Japan is surrounded by quaint narrow streets lined with cafes, restaurants and a variety of shops. Loved wandering through here after most people had left the area.

NOVEMBER

palm tree bahia honda state park
A broken but not battered palm tree at Bahia Honda State Park after Hurricane Irma blew through. A trip to the Florida Keys with my oldest niece and 2 sons.
sombrero beach views in Marathon Florida
My boys enjoying a sunset swim at Sombrero Beach in Marathon, Florida Keys.
So not a winter person but I can appreciate the beauty of snow especially with a setting sun. No travels in December.

VIDEOS

Wishing your many photographic opportunities and travels that fulfil your soul in 2018.

My close encounter with an elephant in South Africa

Arriving back at Naledi Game Lodge in South Africa for my third time, I had only one wish — to be surrounded by elephants. I was yearning to have more time with my favourite animal, observing it in its natural habitat.

I had already gone on the morning game drive and decided to spend 3 hours at a hide. I was just finishing breakfast when I noticed an elephant on the television screen that was mounted on the wall. I soon realized that it was the webcam feed from the hide I was planning to visit.

The bull elephant was still at the waterhole when we arrived, but it was off camera and to the side of the hide, eating leaves. After an okay from Sipho, a tracker at Naledi, I quickly moved from the game drive vehicle, up the stairs and over to the side to get a good view of the elephant.

The Hide at Naledi Game Lodge.
Sipho, a tracker at Naledi Game Lodge, South Africa.

The bull elephant that rumbled

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All of a sudden the elephant emitted a rumbling sound. Sipho explained that the bull elephant was communicating. Sure enough, three more elephants came by for a drink. One by one they arrived at the waterhole and went to the back of the waterhole by the trees and furthest point from the hide.

2EleNaledi2015web

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then an elephant that Sipho called  “Flopsy” (because of his floppy right ear) was the last of the five elephants to appear. He passed in front of the hide and nodded his head as if to say hello and joined the others for a drink. They hung around for about 45 minutes. I couldn’t believe all the time I had with them, alone, as Sipho had left just after Flopsy arrived. I got a little emotional and was thankful for the visit.

3 African elephants at a waterhole
Three wild African elephants at a waterhole, including “Flopsy”. My view from the hide above the waterhole.

The next day while on a game drive, Mike (my guide) heard breaking branches and followed the sound into the bush. We came upon 12-13 male elephants. I immediately thought it was “my” elephants as I had seen eight male elephants altogether the day before.

elephants in South Africa
My guide Mike taking a photo of the elephants with his smartphone

 

While Mike, Sipho & I were watching the elephants in front of us, we suddenly heard branches breaking behind us. We couldn’t see it; we could only hear it. After a few minutes, it came out from behind the tree and continued to eat nearby. It was Flopsy.

He was so close to the vehicle that I switched to my iPhone to get a few shots and started recording video. I giggled because I couldn’t believe how close he was and that I had to use my iPhone.

Then, this happened.

 

I was alone in the back of the game drive vehicle that day, and our vehicle had the sighting to ourselves. The only way to describe this 2-day experience is, magical.

I have always believed that elephants were magical. Now I know it’s true. Thanks to the expert guiding of Mike and fantastic tracking of Sipho, this experience will long live in my heart. I was completely calm and felt safe.

 

More – 

elephant walking down the road
We left the elephant sighting and found that one of the males had gone for a walk. Another Naledi Game Lodge is pictured.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Naledi Game Lodges – a luxury, family friendly and relatively affordable lodge in the Greater Kruger area.
  • Africam – web cameras that stream 24 hours a day, three are located at Naledi Game Lodge.
  • Safari Live – For live streaming game drives from South Africa, check out Safari Live. It’s as if you’re in the back of the vehicle on a 3-hour drive, searching for wildlife. The drives are twice a day.
  • If you love elephants don’t ever ride them, ride in a game drive vehicle instead – https://www.thedodo.com/elephant-rides-trek-1132645600.html

 

Animal mothers and a 1 hour old giraffe

This Mother’s Day I’m honouring animal mothers and their babies. This series of animals were photographed in 2014, 2015 and 2016 in Kruger National Park and the greater Kruger area in South Africa.

Mother's Day, Mom and baby baboon
One of my favourite animal mothers to watch is baboons.

 

mothers day elephant mom and baby
This little one couldn’t have been more than a month old. I first found it napping with mom standing over it.

 

mother's day newborn giraffe and mom
Mama giraffe cleans her newborn. This giraffe was about an hour old. When we arrived at the sighting, we found it surrounded by eight hyenas. Mom stood on guard until the baby giraffe stood up. Happy to report that hyena did not attack. See video below.

 

mothers day black rhino and baby
Mom and baby black rhino

 

mothers day lioness and 3 cubs
These cubs are part of a pride of 9 lions and were about three months old in this photo. This kill was one of their first meat based meals.

 

mother's day baby zebra
This baby giraffe just finished suckling from its mom.

 

mothers day mom baboon carrying its baby
Watched this pair of baboons for a while as they walked through an open area with their troop. The baby would hitch a ride then climb down to suckle and return to its spot on mom’s back.

 

 

Bonus: 

fathers day lion and cub
With Father’s Day around the corner, I couldn’t resist this one of this lion cub and his father. This cub is one of the cubs from the photo above of the lioness and her three cubs. In this image; he’s about nine months old.

 

 

Visiting Family Friendly Vergenoegd Wine Estate in Stellenbosch, South Africa

My husband, two sons and I arrived at Vergenoegd, a wine estate at the start of the Stellenbosch wine route in the Cape Winelands on a beautiful summer day in February 2016. We followed the long gravel road off the R310, past the pond where resident geese and native wild birds relax and parked under the towering oak trees.

My 5-year-old son immediately started to explore and was excited to find acorns on the ground. “We have acorns in Canada too, mom”.

Vergenoegd Sign

Boy walking at Vergenoegd Wine Estate

Vergenoegd Welcome

We entered the outside dining area where the long table was located, to a glass of Vergenoegd bubbly and were greeted by a friendly goose. My youngest son was enamoured with Rocco, the resident goose and showed him the acorn that he found. Chef Ryan Shell then introduced him and his older brother to Rocco.

Vergenoegd wine

Son photographing acords

Showing an acorn to Rocco the goose

My son photographing Rocco at Vergenoegd

My boys introduced to Rocco by Chef Ryan at Vergenoegd Wine Estate

I instantly fell in love with the long table and the beautiful setting under the trees. I’ve always liked and enjoyed the idea of a community table and the intimate feeling it brings. Winemaker Marlize Jacobs, managing director Peter Stuart and marketing manager Nicole Arnold also joined us at the table. It was wonderful to have their company and an excellent way to learn more about the processes at Vergenoegd.

Vergenoegd long table

Vergenoegd long table setting

Before their picnic lunch, my youngest son took some time to enjoy one of his favourite activities, colouring, while his older brother played with a ball. He then joined his brother and soon there were laughs and shrieks at each miss of the ball.

Trunk of toys at Vergenoegd Wine Estate

Colouring at Vergenoegd

Son playing sports at Vergenoegd

While my husband and I were at the long table, the boys had a picnic lunch on the lawn. They had a blanket, boxed lunch and a trunk full of toys and games to choose. They had ample room to run and play. We didn’t have to try and keep them still or occupy them while trying to eat our 3-course harvest meal; instead, they were free to be kids. Just the way they like it.

Vergenoegd Picnic for kids

We could enjoy our delicious meal prepared by Chef Ryan that included freshly harvested vegetables. Though I checked in on them from time to time, they also had the watchful eyes of childminders and were taken care of as well as my husband, and I were being taken care of. Thank you Vergenoegd.

Harvest lunch at Vergenoegd

Harvest Lunch at Vergenoegd

After lunch, my husband and I went inside the Manor House for a blending experience. We could choose from wine, coffee, tea or olive oil. He chose coffee, and I picked tea. I wondered how we were going to join in the blending experiences with kids in tow, but Vergenoegd made sure to take care of those details, perfectly. A childminder sat with them and helped them while they decorated the cookies that were included in their picnic lunch.

Tea blending experience at Vergenoegd

Coffee and Tea Blending at Vergenoegd

Cookie decorating fun at Vergenoedgd

Cookie decorating at Vergenoegd Wine Estate

Cookie decorating at Vergenoegd Wine Estate

Vergenoegd is home to 1100 runner ducks that set out each morning for the vineyards where they work at keeping the snails away. As they go out in the morning and return in the afternoon, they parade past the Manor House. After our separate experiences, we all came back together on the lawn for the duck parade. What a unique experience and event to watch, not to mention how adorable it is. It’s such a great idea in helping to keep the snails away and lowers the need for pesticides.

My son and the Vergenoegd Runner Ducks

Vergenoegd Runner Ducks

Vergenoegd Runner Ducks

My son and the Vergenoegd Runner Ducks

I didn’t think visiting a winery while on a family trip to Cape Town, South Africa was possible, but I quickly learned otherwise. There was no shortage of activities for children, with treats and surprises along the way. Vergenoegd knows kids. The childminders were a welcome addition as it gave my husband & I a chance to participate in the blending experiences and time to enjoy the harvest lunch and conversation at the long table.

Our afternoon at Vergenoegd was truly enjoyable for each of us and a highlight of our time in Cape Town. We are now back home in Canada and are still talking about it. Just the other day I enjoyed some rooibos and bachu tea that I purchased after my blending experience. Thank you Vergenoegd for an enjoyable first experience at a Stellenbosch wine estate, we’ll be back.

 

Video:

Watch this short video and see the highlight of our duck parade — a duck bouncing to its own beat!

 

Note: We visited Vergenoegd Wine Estate by invitation from Destinate and Vergenoegd Wine Estate. As always, all opinions are my own.

 

 

A Children’s Picnic at Vergenoegd Wine Estate

children's picnic at vergenoegd wine estate in stellenbosch, south africa

My boys had a picnic under the sunny blue skies at Vergenoegd Wine Estate in Stellenbosch, South Africa last month on our visit to Cape Town, South Africa and loved it. So much room to run and play and activities to do.

My husband & I loved the tea and coffee blending experiences, the wine, the bubbly, all 3 courses of the harvest lunch prepared by talented Chef Ryan, the farm to table food idea, the long table with everyone eating together and all the activities for the kids (child minding was a bonus).

It was truly a fun afternoon for the whole family. Have to say the duck parade with 800 runner ducks was something special and unique and we are happy we got to experience it. It was one of the highlights of our family trip to South Africa. We’re back home in Canada and are still talking about our time at Vergenoegd. A full story about our experience is coming soon.
Note: We visited Vergenoegd Wine Estate by invitation from Destinate and Vergenoegd Wine Estate. As always, all opinions are my own.