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East London & an Inkwenkwezi Safari
The now-familiar heavy swells once again graced Silversea’s elegant Silver Wind this morning as she sailed south through the Indian Ocean along the South African coastline, destined for the city of East London.
Since it was such a lovely day out, I ate both breakfast and an early lunch out on the veranda at La Terrazza once again. It’s so nice to sit out and enjoy the breeze and the sounds of the ocean so close at hand, all while water is poured, coffee served, and breakfast is doled out. In fact, the restaurant remains one of my absolute favorites for dinner: I love the atmosphere, the Italian heritage of the menus, and the phenomenal service.
I have been meaning to try Le Champagne all week, Silver Wind’s Relais & Chateaux-influenced specialty restaurant, but it has remained heavily booked – which is a testament to the food created here. When I dined at Le Champagne onboard the Silver Spirit, it was a true event, and I am sure that holds true here aboard the Silver Wind.
Just before noon, Silver Wind came alongside in East London, South Africa under a scorching, cloudless sky. Temperatures soared to 28 degrees Celsius as I made my way down the gangway and onto the motorcoach that would take me on my final Safari experience: a five-hour excursion and three-hour game drive at the Inkwenkwezi Private Game Reserve.
The reserve itself was located about an hour outside of the city limits, amidst some of the most beautiful scenery imaginable. One of the things that has fascinated me on this trip is just how diverse the African landscape has been; from the near-tropical forests and mountain ranges of Richard’s Bay to the drier, rolling hills of Durban and finally the vast swaths of grasslands and beautiful beaches present in East London. Not to mention, of course, Cape Town’s majestic Table Mountain.
Today’s game drive was leaps and bounds better than yesterday’s. No converted delivery trucks were here; all guests boarded three canvas-topped Land Rover 4×4 vehicles and set off from the welcome centre on a true off-road experience. In fact, it was so off-road that the first thing that popped into my mind was that it reminded me of the Indiana Jones ride at Disneyland, except that Land Rover was on a rail and there was a large boulder chasing me…
Because of the adventurous nature of the drive itself – and the spectacular scenery – I would have been quite happy even if all the game decided they were going to hide in the underbrush. But not only did they come out, they did so in force!
For me, the highlight of the day was seeing my very first lions, thus completing my goal of seeing all five “Big Game” in their natural habitat. The lions at Inkwenkwezi were almost in their natural habitat, however: our Land Rover had to pass through a double-gated vestibule to access the lion enclosure. Surrounded by a two-thousand volt electrified fence, it was a bit of a Jurassic Park moment as we drove into the vestibule and had the gate shut behind us. Our guide was then handed a loaded pistol which he armed before the second gate was opened, allowing us to drive through and on to several waiting lions. All that was missing was Samuel L. Jackson saying, “Hold onto your butts.”
We were all warned to not lean out of the vehicle, or stand up while in the lion enclosure: animals like lions see in two dimensions, meaning they see the Land Rover as a bit of a 2D brick and not a three-dimensional object with eight tasty human snacks inside.
Seeing the lions was very cool, but then it immediately unnerved me. These are Lions! And even my rudimentary knowledge of Lions! told me that they were not to be messed with. Our guide filled in the missing pieces when he said that in three seconds, a lion can cover nearly 50 feet of ground. My rough calculations told me I’d be an amuse bouche in less than two.
After driving around the enclosure for ten minutes that felt like forty, we passed through the gated vestibule again, the pistol was secured and handed over, and we returned to the rest of the reserve.
We then saw the Rhinos before embarking on an adventurous drive back to the welcome centre and our waiting motorcoach. At Inkwenkwezi, they cut the horns off their rhinos to discourage poachers from coming onto the property and killing them for their horns. A rhino horn can sell for almost $70,000 per kilogram on the black market before being shipped to Asia, which means the average horn is worth in the neighbourhood of half a million dollars. I understand they’re trying to protect their rhinos, but I have to admit that I had never seen that before on any of the other reserves I’ve visited in the past week, and it was a bit of a sad sight.
Still, I did have a very enjoyable afternoon at Inkwenkwezi, but it’s fascinating what you notice after you’ve been to five different game reserves in five different parts of South Africa. Though the way everyone who took the Silversea Mid-Voyage Land Adventure to the Phinda Private Game Reserve north of Richards Bay raves about it, I think I’ll have to come back and give that one a go now!
After being tossed around in a Land Rover for the better part of the afternoon, I’m strongly considering a visit to The Spa at Silversea located on Deck 8 forward. Although not as large as the sprawling complex aboard the Silver Spirit (there’s no heated thermal loungers or private thermal pool area here), the Silver Wind is still large enough to offer nearly all of the treatments you’ve come to expect, including one of my favorites: the Elemis Hot Stone Massage.
As we departed East London at 5:45pm, we sailed once again into the turbulent Indian Ocean, with its monster swells that look like a flat calm. Indeed, there’s no whitecaps, no discernible waves breaking over the water: just a low, deep swell that you don’t notice until you’re upon it.
I’m over my seasickness completely and the constant elevator motion no longer bothers me, but seasickness sufferers should pack their sea-bands, anti-nausea tablets and whatever else they rely on. I’m doing well living off of crackers and candied ginger; two things that have had a place on my dining table all week.
The very first time I sailed with Silversea was over two years ago, on a brilliant voyage from Barbados to Fort Lauderdale aboard the Silver Spirit. I remember being amazed when, without prompting, my dress shoes were shined and left wrapped in elegant paper adorned with a Silversea sticker.
Tonight, I returned to my suite after my excursion to find that, once again, my shoes came polished, wrapped and delivered. All without me asking. Which is brilliant, because I’d meant to ask to have them polished for Formal Night tonight.
My butler, Ronaldo, read my mind instead. It’s so fantastic to see that the little things that impressed me so much are still alive and well, even two years later and halfway around the world.
Here’s what is happening onboard the Silver Wind tonight:
6:00pm – Silver Wind sails for Cape Town, South Africa.
6:45pm – Perry plays Guests’ musical favorites – The Bar (5)
7:00pm – Captain’s Farewell – Parisian Lounge (6)
9:45pm – Perry returns to play Guests’ musical favorites until Late – The Bar (5)
9:45pm – The Silver Wind Quartet plays for Guests’ dancing pleasure – Panorama Lounge (8)
10:00pm – Show Time: Silversea Presents “Fabbalicious.” – Parisian Lounge (6)
11:00pm – Disco Time – Dance the Night Away – The Bar (5)
An interesting tidbit about this evening: I enjoyed an evening of disco music in The Bar that began at 11pm. At 12:30am, the place was still packed. The average age on this particular voyage may be 70+, but these people know how to have fun!
Tomorrow, guests onboard the Silver Wind will have one last chance to spend a day relaxing, Silversea-style as we cruise the Indian Ocean en-route to Cape Town. For some, the perfect day at sea will be spent poolside, soaking in the sun. For me, I’ll be trying to take in all the little things that I somehow didn’t manage to do over the course of the past 10 days. And I love that, because it means I get to devote a solid day of coverage to all the little things that I think make the Silver Wind special.
With only 296 guests and 514 feet in length, you’d think it’d be easy to see and do everything onboard – but that’s hardly the case. If you’ve always wondered about Silversea but were leery about travelling on a “small” ship, know this: the Silver Wind is plenty big on the inside.
As Voyage 2302 draws to a close, there’s only one thing that I have found truly unsatisfactory on this trip: they’re making us disembark on Friday!
Our Live Voyage Report from aboard Silversea’s elegant Silver Wind will continue tomorrow we spend one final day cruising the Indian Ocean before our arrival in gorgeous Cape Town, South Africa!
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