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, eating some 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.
Suddenly 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.
Then an elephant that Sipho called “Flopsy” because of his floppy right ear was the last of the five elephants to arrive. He passed in front of the hide and nodded his head as if to say hello and joined the others at the waterhole.
Flopsy (elephant on the right) and his friends at a waterhole.
They spent about 45 minutes drinking and eating off to the right side of the hide. I couldn’t believe all the time I had with them, alone, as Sipho had left shortly after Flopsy arrived. I got a little emotional and even thanked them for the visit.
The next day while on a game drive, we heard branches breaking in the distance. Mike (the guide) followed the noise into the bush. We found a group of about 12-13 elephants. I immediately thought it was “my elephants” as I had seen eight elephants all together at the hide the day before.
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. I giggled because I couldn’t believe how close he was and that I had to use my iPhone.
Then, this happened.
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.
I have always believed that elephants were magical. Now I know it’s true.
The bull elephant that rumbled
We left the elephant sighting and found that one of the males had gone for a walk.
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.
One of my favourite animal mothers to watch is baboons.
This little one couldn’t have been more than a month old. I first found it napping with mom standing over it.
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.
Mom and baby black rhino
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.
This baby giraffe just finished suckling from its mom.
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.
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.
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”.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.