God’s Own Country: South Africa

We all have a mental picture of an ideal world. A world without pollution, mental stress and traffic jams. A world where smog doesn’t disturb flights and smoke is what you see when you burn a bonfire at the beach, where dolphins gallop across the ocean, and sometimes whales squirt some water at you too .

I found a world like that, in God’s own country (more often called South Africa). Before my trip to Port Elizabeth (the locals call it PE), I always had this picture of paradise. Never thought I’ll find paradise in my lifetime. But I found it, right here, on this planet. Port Elizabeth is often missed out by the regular travelers to South Africa. It is not on the routine travel itinerary, mainly due to its laidback, small town-like feel and attitude. It is geographically located 1000 km from Cape Town and apart from being called the Friendly City; it’s also nicknamed the Windy City. People who’re visited PE in winter often told me tales of caps and scarves being blown miles away. But since we went during the summer months (Nov- Dec), we were spared.

Port Elizabeth airport only receives domestic flights, so we had to stopover at Johannesburg for a few hours. The first thing I noticed when I caught sight of this PE from the plane’s window was how clean the sea looked and how clear the sky looked. We were staying at a Bed and Breakfast. As the name suggests, you are provided with a bed to sleep on and breakfast in the morning. After a very nice breakfast, we decided to visit Kragga Kama, a small wildlife reserve located on the outskirts of Port Elizabeth. I call it a small wildlife reserve because it doesn’t stretch across three countries like the Kruger national park.

South Africa has a population of 44 million, which would roughly be equal to the number of people living in Mumbai and NCR only. So there’s enough land for the men, animals and trees to share peacefully. Animals are in plenty there, but there are no elephants and tigers roaming the streets. They live in specially demarcated areas called Game reserves, where you must pay an entrance fees and follow the rules of the Game Park. Most of these parks are privately owned and maintained by individuals. There are also special game reserves where you can hunt the animals. You have to pay for every animal you kill.

In South Africa, they sometimes have animal overpopulation. So after exporting animals to different zoos of the world, they don’t mind shooting the remaining extra ones down. For obvious reasons, you can’t go around shooting tigers and lions, but small animals like bucks and deer can be shot down.

We took a cab to Kraga Kama and were pleasantly surprised to find how big it was. This place could easily equal Sariska in size. ‘In Africa when they say small, its actually extra large by our standards’. At the gate, before we climbed into their jeep, they gave us brochures and pictures of animals that you will find inside the park. There were about 20-25 kinds of deer, bucks etc. I didn’t even know so many species of them existed. There were meant to be a cheetah, two rhinoceros, a small herd of giraffe and some baboons too.

We returned to the BnB after lunch and found ourself a Pakistani restaurant next to the beach. ‘Up the Khyber’ was the name, and the name of the dishes made us feel at home. The dinner was fulfilling and we decided to call it the end of the day. After all we had hard work to do the next day : strolling on the beach . we had intentionally decided to devote a day to the beach. During most of our past vacations, in the excitement to visit a million places we forgot to relax . So day 2 was our favorite: BEACH DAY.