Africa: Day 1 - Arrival in Johannesburg

Wednesday, 3 October, 2012 was the date to which we had been counting down since June, when we received an invitation to attend the wedding of Joanne and Matt, to be held on 14 October in South Africa of all places.

Jo is a South African friend of Xenedette's, who was living in Sydney and is presently based in Rome.  She decided to marry in her home country, where her family is still based; and we were on the guest list.

All of a sudden, we had a massive trip to plan.  Neither of us had been to Africa, and now we were going to fly across the globe for a wedding.  Well, it would not be just a wedding; it was Africa, the land of the lion and other spectacular wildlife, and we had to see it and experience it.

For the next few months, we planned our intinerary, piece by piece; and naturally, a safari was to be the highlight of the trip.

On 500px I had discovered Mario Moreno, a wildlife photographer who also runs photographic safari tours in southern Africa.  We contacted him, and then spent some weeks putting together a customised photographic safari — just for us — in the Motswari Private Game Reserve in the Timbavati region of Kruger Park in Mpumalanga — home to the big cats of Africa: lion, leopard and cheetah.

One of the other main attractions of South Africa is Cape Town, a cosmopolitan, vibrant and incredibly picturesque city in the Western Cape.  We wanted to go there and see Table Mountain, its iconic geological landmark.

As wine lovers, a trip to Stellenbosch, one of South Africa's premier wine regions an hour away from Cape Town, was a must; and late one night the notion of cage diving with great white sharks suddenly entered my mind, so we decided to do that, too.

That left the third part of the trip, which was based around the wedding and the social atmosphere and activities we would encounter at Tala Private Game Reserve, about an hour from Durban, where the wedding was to be held.  We would also be going on game drives at Tala too, but the terrain was extremely different to what we would see in Kruger Park, and there would be no predators.

So, our 14-day trip consisted of three sub-trips:

  1. safari and wildlife photography in Kruger Park;
  2. adventure activities and relaxation in Cape Town; and
  3. socialising and the wedding (the catalyst for the trip) in KwaZulu-Natal.

Wednesday, 3 October, 2012, started early for us, as we had a 10am flight from Sydney to Johannesburg.  We would be sitting on a Boeing 747 for 14 hours, travelling back in time to a place neither of us had seen, and which would change us.

In the final hours of the flight, I looked out the window, and watched the southern African coastline below us as we flew over the Indian ocean and into the Saharan continent; the contrast between the rich, azure water and the dry, yellow-orange land was stark.

Soon enough, we arrived in Jo'burg.  Once we cleared immigration and customs, Mario was waiting for us, and we all went off to the Protea Hotel OR Tambo just outside the airport, where we would spend the night before departing for Kruger Park the next morning on a charter flight.

We had dinner with Mario, discussed plans, got to know each other better, and sipped some nice South Africa wine as we prepared for the massive adventure ahead of us.

Soon after, we retired for the night; it had nearly been 24 hours since we awoke to day one of our African trip.  Day two would see us encounter some incredible wildlife, and it was really only the beginning of the trip of a lifetime.

Stay tuned for day two.

Published on Saturday, 20th October, 2012.