Let’s start with Port Elizabeth last Sunday, February 27th. Port Elizabeth is a major manufacturing town for cars and cars parts. Ford, Isuzu, and several others all have manufacturing plants along with tires and other major parts. Needless to say the town itself is not that exciting but the area around it is. One thing that becomes obvious is how good we have things in the US. Although Covid caused major issues for 2 years, the unemployment rate in South Africa is a 46%. The first things our guides would tell us is we were the first cruise ship to dock since 2020 and they thanked us profusely for helping to get their lives back to a more normal.
Now for the fun part, my excursion here was to the Addo National Elephant Park, which is the largest national park in South Africa at about 800,000 acres. The elephants were almost hunted to extinction in SA and they created this park with just a few elephants in the 1960’s and they now number in the 10,000’s. There are a few other animals here, but for the most part it’s all about the elephants. This is all native and they don’t feed or do anything for the animals other than protect them. So there are lions and cheetahs here as well as other animals, but you don’t see them often.
Next stop Richards Bay and the Hluhluwe National Park. One of the major attractions here are the white rhinos which are not named for their color. You can tell a white rhino by looking at it’s mouth and if it’s more square, that’s a white rhino. It enables them to graze better and get more grass as they feed. Much like Addo, the numbers of rhinos were close to extinction when this park was created. They won’t tell you how many live there today because poaching is still a major problem for people to kill them just to harvest the horn. This is the home of the Zulu tribe and is the majority of the population is SA. All the villages around the park are Zulu families and the park now employs many of them to help stop the poaching. Because they knew the area so well, the poachers would approach them with large amounts of cash for them to lead them to the rhinos. Hence, by employing them to work in the park, they were able to curb much of the poaching. This park is also known for having the “big five” of African animals, lion/cheetah/bush elephant/rhino/water buffalo. We didn’t see the lions and cheetahs as we were there mid day and they were most likely napping. One of the biggest things about this park is that all white rhinos alive today can be traced back to this park. Zoos may have bred their own, but they are all genetically linked to this park in South Africa. For those in Knoxville, that includes Dolly and Polly, the two rhinos at our zoo.
Next stop was Durban for two days. Day one was a trip to the Tala Private Game Preserve. Although there was an abundance of animals and varieties, it felt a lot more like a ride through zoo after being in the national parks. The animals are still wild and they feed and live naturally, they were clearly much more accustomed to people than the parks. The one thing they do however is provide guards on what looks like deer stands to keep people from poaching the animals. Although not the size of the national parks Tala is still over 100,000 acres so it’s very difficult to protect all of them all the time
Day two was the African Market in Durban. Basically tourists don’t go there without a guide and security and it’s a real view in to the daily life of the people who live there. There are several different markets all connected where you can buy anything from fresh spices to live animals.
Last, just a cruising update. One of my go to foods at lunch on the last cruise was a hamburger at lunch. I tried one at the pool and another through room service and they were horrible. So during a dinner I was having with the cruise director and hotel director, they were asking about things and I brought this up. Next day I have an invite to dinner with the head of food and beverage and he admits after trying one, they were not good. His answer however was whenever I would like a hamburger, give them a days notice and they would grind hamburger and cook it for me whenever I wanted one. That was a couple of weeks ago. Yesterday, the F & B manager stopped me and let me know at the last stop in South Africa they had resupplied with different hamburgers and to try them when I was ready. This is somewhat silly, but it’s how serious they take customer satisfaction on Silversea.
Today is the first sea day in a while, so getting caught up with things today. Next stop will be Maputo, Mozambique tomorrow. I think I’ll head up to the pool now and check out a hamburger even though this is the seafood buffet in the dining room. It’s going on 12:30, so we’re about 7 hours ahead of Knoxville.