Sorry for my really slow updates these days. The work has been kind of piling up on the ship and the past few days has been really busy with activities, meetings and homework!
Ok, back to South Africa.
On my third day in South Africa I went whale watching.
We left at around 8:30AM, and took a 2.5 hour drive to Kleinbaai Harbour, around what I believe is the Haut Bay area. Along the way we passed the apple/ citrus growing region of the greater Cape Town, and we also passed the wheat/ barley, and grape/ wine growing region.
We arrived at the Great White House, where we got our briefing on whale watching and the safety aboard our boat. Before all this we got a briefing on how we could donate 400 Rand for a house for the endangered penguins of South Africa, their natural environments have nearly been destroyed by humans thus they cannot really create their homes from natural elements anymore.
Then we embarked on a short walk to the shore, where our boat was waiting on the back of a tow tractor. We put on our life jackets and then climbed up the stairs to board our boat on land! The tractor then reversed and the platform we were on went down the slope and into the sea, where the engine were started and then we were in the water ready to head out to sea!
The seas were considered smooth, but some parts got a bit bumpy and rough, nonetheless the weather was perfect for a day out at sea. After heading far out into the sea, we arrived in the area where they conduct shark cage diving with Great White Sharks. Indeed the cages were left floating in the water, as the company ships went back to land to get more customers, they make many runs a day so they leave the cages out during the day. Sure enough as we neared the cages, a couple of Great White Sharks were just gliding in the water around us. They were quite huge, but did not seem scary. One of the marine biologists, who was our guide too, expressed her disliking of movies like Jaws, which give the wrong image of sharks. Sharks actually hate human meat, which is why they never really eat a whole human being, they only take a bit. Sadly a bit is often enough to kill someone and thus we have these bad and horrid images of these otherwise cool creatures of the sea.
Our boat then sailed to Geyser Rock and Dyer Island. Geyser Rock is a rock formation where thousands of seals live. We could smell the seal’s odor from very far out, and it got stronger as we got closer to the rock. Despite the terrible smell, the seals were wonderful to watch. They were all very playful, at least the younger ones in the ocean, the older ones seemed to just lay on the rocks and tan. We saw many babies and teenagers, and many came near the ship and showed off their jumping and diving skills. Apparently the waters we were in between Geyser Rock and Dyer Island is known as Shark Alley, because it is where the sharks come during their meal time to feast on seals. Dyer Island is an island that is home to the African Penguins. We did not get close enough to see them roaming about on the island, but when we sailed away from the area, we saw a group of penguins swimming and popping their heads up for air. It was quite cute!
The boat then sailed toward the Pearly Beach area, where we spotted our first Southern Right Whale! We then saw many more. It was mostly mothers and their calves, as the moms like to go near the coast to feed and breed their young where the water is shallower and warmer. When the boat got too close, the mothers would swim away with their calves. We mostly saw the whales’ backs, and sadly none of them did the famous tail movement where their tails go vertically into the water. Nor did any whale jump out and splash into the water. Nonetheless it was magical to see these gentle giants just floating in the waters and spraying the Southern Right Whale’s signature V-shaped water spout. We then came upon a family of around three whales. The mother took the child away, or it could have been the father I’m not entirely sure, but the other parent remained behind and approached the boat. We all got very excited and were just taken aback by the magic in the moment as the whale came closer and closer and soon it touched our boat and swam under it and came out the other side. Our boat needed to play a bit of a doge the whale game so that the engines would not harm the whale as it swam around and under our ship multiple times. It was a huge whale! Almost the size of our boat, and they can grow to be much larger than our boat. It was just so beautiful as it gently swam around us, it was just as curious as us, and according to our guide this guy was familiar and knew the boat. They can identify the whales by the barnacles on the whales and each whale also has a unique pattern on their skins. Then this one whale swam away for a bit and started playing with a strand of kelp. Apparently these whales like to play with kelp as they like the texture and for the young ones they love to try to balance kelp on their back. It was so fun to watch! The whole experience was just so surreal, and soon it was time for us to head back to shore. I still can’t believe just how close we were to the whale, and just how gentle and friendly and curious it was. What an amazing experience! And thank goodness our ship arrived during whale watching and whale breeding season!
Then we made our way back to the ship.
South African Cuisine.
That night I had dinner at a restaurant called Seruga, a sister restaurant to a well known Cape Town place called Beluga. As you might guess, the most expensive item on the menu was caviar. But I did not eat caviar I just craved some sushi and Asian food which they had. I had cha sao bao, or in Cantonese cha sui bao? The steamed pork bun, EXCEPT the meat was not pork it was SPRINGBOK! It was actually really tasty, and it satisfied my craving for some Chinese food, even though it came with a South African twist. The sushi came with a twist too, I got the tuna crunch roll, it was a tuna roll with avocado, cream cheese and had a fried crust on it served with a bit of mayo and Thai chili sauce. It had enough Asian flare to it that it also satisfied my craving. My main course was Springbok! It was cooked and thinly sliced like pieces of Kobe beef, served with mashed potatoes, onion rings, sautéed Cherry, sautéed mushrooms and a delicious reduced sauce I think. It was so good, and so far the best meal I had on this voyage so far. I also had molten chocolate cake with white chocolate ice cream for dessert. My friend and I split the bill, and it came down to around USD$40 per person, this also included drinks, which was totally worth it! Some dishes in a NYC restaurant of the same tier would set me back more than $40!
After dinner my friends and I headed to a place called Mitchell’s Brewery, located near the ship on the Waterfront. Here we tried another local South African mixed shot called the African Toilet, sounds pleasant right? Well it wasn’t too bad, it was basically banana and chocolate liquor, but I still thought the springbok shot tasted better. I also ordered a beer tasting, where they gave me smaller glasses of all 6 of the brewery’s main beers. Most of them were pretty good! We also tried a mix drink of two shots of brandy with coke, it actually tasted really good, and it was similar if not better than whiskey coke. Some people got a drink called the fishbowl, which literally came in a fishbowl. We also stumbled upon a crew member who my friends and I have gotten really close to on the ship. His name is Edward and he is from Manila, Philippines, and he works in the main dining hall, and we have become good friends and he secretly spoils us with treats from within the kitchen that no one else gets, such as oven baked cookies and delicious brownies! We took a picture with him, and had a quick chat but we didn’t have a drink or anything because there is a rule that students aren’t allowed to “fraternize” with the crew otherwise they would be fired, so we did not want to risk having our friend get fired.
It was a great day. A day that started with the beauty and serenity of mother nature and ended on a good note with a few drinks with my closest friends on the ship.