Power outage for 14 hours…Long night without aircon….Amazing responses from readers…

Spikey Kudu has only recently begun to sprout his lifetime horns. Look at his tongue sticking out a little. Cute.

Last night when we were sitting indoors watching the final emotional episode of the excellent prequel to Yellowstone, 1883, the power went out. With numerous short-term outages lately, we expected it to be restored shortly. No such luck! It never came back on until this morning, 14 hours later.

We did the usual, putting the metal bowl of ice in the refrigerator, which Tom refreshed with more ice this morning. Last night’s meaty casserole was still cold, but since we will be going to Rita and Gerhard’s for dinner tonight, we tossed it out to the few dozen mongooses waiting in the garden for paloney. They loved it! Their digestive systems are sturdier than ours. After all, they can eat venomous snakes!

I keep thinking about Little stopping by several times after leaving and not finding us here.

Luckily, we still had hot water but could not make coffee when we got up. The side burner on the braai wasn’t working for some reason. I made myself an iced coffee using decaf crystals and added ice leftover in the freezer. That worked ok for me. Finally, when the power was restored, Tom could have his coffee.

After carefully checking the food in the fridge, I determined it all survived, but I threw out a few questionable items. Since last Wednesday, we hadn’t shopped, so the refrigerator wasn’t overly stocked. Everything in the freezer was still frozen solid, including fish and prawns. No worries there.

As far as homely warthogs go, Little is a fine-looking specimen, although he has small tusks.

Luckily, with our laptop’s long-lasting batteries, we were able to watch shows until finally we shut it down, played with our phones for a while, and drifted off to sleep. Of course, we awoke several times during the night, never even using the top sheet. It was too warm. Thank goodness, yesterday wasn’t the hottest day in the past week.

Today, I’ll continue walking and make a salad to bring to R & G’s tonight. They have friends visiting from the US, whom they picked up yesterday at the Nelspruit Airport. They are all going on a road trip in about ten days and won’t return to Marloth Park until next September.

Last night, Mom and babies stopped by, accompanied by Barbara and Lori (not shown in the photo), her daughters from her previous litter.

Maybe another surprise will be on the horizon!! We probably won’t see Rita and Gerhard when we return in December since they spend Christmas in the US at their home in Washington. But, they surprised us by showing up on New Year’s Eve at the party at Flo and JiJi’s. That would be fantastic.

Tonight there will be eight of us, with Louise and Danie joining in on the dinner party. Gosh, it’s fun to go to a dinner party on a weeknight. We never did that in our old lives when we had to get up and go to work the following day. It’s one of the many joys of retirement.

In yesterday’s post here, I apologized for our mundane posts and lack of exciting photos since the pandemic hit the world over the past two years. As for many of you, traveling became cumbersome and complex with all the Covid restrictions, closed borders, and regulations.

Mongooses sleep close to one another, even when it’s hot. After this morning’s breakfast, they stay around for a few hours, lounging in the side garden.

In response to that post, the email messages came in by the dozens, if not more. All of them were kind and thoughtful, expressing their support of what we do each day to bring you our latest news. There wasn’t one “hater” or negative comment. We thank every one of you for taking the time to write and for your thoughtful and generous words.

One of these email messages particularly stuck in my mind overnight from a longtime reader/friend, Liz. It’s a bit self-boasting to post this, so in advance, let me say that it is not our intention to “fluff our feathers.”  Here’s what Liz wrote:

“Dear Jess,

It should be us who thank you and Tom to allow us ‘homebodies’ to travel vicariously through your experiences. The time and effort it takes to photograph, create the post idea, write and edit is not lost on me. The fact that, unless in exceptional circumstances, you have provided a daily post for many years now is amazing.

On the one hand I too am ‘champing at the bit’ to get back out there to see more of my beautiful country, but on the other hand circumstances, health, and finances.

In the mean time I am able to watch the world through your eyes informing and learning not only about the far flung places but my attitude, likes and dislikes. Geography, social history, politics and the human race are all presented there in your blog giving me the chance to learn something new.

Thank you!


Another slightly younger Spikey Kudu arrived in the garden.

This email brought tears to my eyes. We posted for the first time in March 2012, almost ten years ago, and our readership continues to grow with many new readers each year. Is this why our readers have stuck with us through boring, mundane, and repetitive posts, year after year?

All we can say is “thank you” to Liz and to every reader who wrote to us, and every reader continues to read our post. With your support, we stay motivated and engaged in bringing you more content, especially now as we hope to enjoy more freedom of travel.

Will this war in Ukraine have an impact on our future travels? As always, only time will tell. But, again, travel freedom can change in a moment, as we’ve seen over the past two years. In the interim, we continue to make as many plans as possible at this point.

Have a pleasant Monday!

Photo from one year ago today, February 28, 2021:

Tom and I and Ken and Linda, great friends from Marloth Park who happened to be in Sydney at the same time as us! Small world! In May, we’ll see them again in England. For more photos, please click here.

An apology for our readers…Newly posted photos from elephant encounter…

At Kwa Madwala, guests can opt for safaris on horseback.

It was almost two years ago that our hotel lockdown began in India. It’s been over 13 months since we arrived in Marloth Park. Overall, we’ve only been to these two places, other than a week-long visa-stamp trip to Zambia in April and then a one-month visit to the US in July. We’ve been contrary to our self-imposed nomenclature as “world travelers” since we began this years-long journey in 2012.

Don’t get me wrong. We’ve enjoyed every moment in Marloth Park with our human and animal friends, of which there have been countless opportunities. But we are ready to move on. Our wanderlust has taken over! We’re chomping at the bit to get back “into the world.”

The pool from the veranda at Kwa Madwala is soon to be renovated and re-opening within a year.

We don’t mind staying put for extended periods, which accounts for the many times we’ve stayed two, three, and even four months in one location. Doing so has allowed us to learn about each country, its people, culture, nature, and fascinating points of interest.

Sure, we could have done more while we were here. We could have gone on road trips and stayed at various safari camps. But, it’s been hard to motivate ourselves to travel to see precisely what we can see here in our backyard and on a short drive to enter Kruger National Park.

The beautiful male elephant tossed his trunk back for the guide to place pellets inside.

Plus, with so many cruises booked, we needed to watch our spending. It’s only due to the low cost of living for us in the bush that we’ve been able to select a few more expensive cruises than we would have by living here than in other countries. where the cost of living is so much higher. In reality, our lowest cost of living has been in South Africa in partial years: 2013, 2014, 2018, 2019, 2021, and now in 2022.

In total, we’ve spent 32 months living in Marloth Park in the past nine years and hope to be back, if all goes well, returning next December, just before Tom’s birthday, the 23rd, and Christmas. We won’t be staying so long when we return, leaving no longer than six months after we arrive, requiring another visa extension, or a short trip away for a visa stamp.

Nonetheless, I should get to the point of our heading; an apology to our readers…

The property manager was familiar with the elephants allowing him to do a pull-out. Wow!

We are sorry for the redundancy of our posts, especially over the past two years since the onset of the pandemic, and now the endless stream of animal photos of wildlife we’ve surely posted time and time again. You’ve seen me walking in the corridors in India during the ten tedious months of repeated photos from past experiences. Now it is one or multiple bushbucks, one or multiple pigs, one or numerous kudus, and one band of mongooses after another.

We posted numerous photos from our night trail cam, most often of genets and porcupines and many elephants from the river, Kruger National Park, and our recent elephant experience on my birthday. Frank and The Misses and other francolin pairs have graced these pages repeatedly. Recently wildebeests Hal and Broken Horn have been shown and mentioned over and over again.

The veranda where we had brunch last Sunday at Kwa Madwala.

Occasional bush babies, hornbills, go-away birds, and other small creatures have been highlighted on countless posts. On top of all of that, we’ve prepared innumerable posts about Covid-19, lions in Marloth Park, cruises, and now, challenges in traveling due to the horrific war in Ukraine.

Don’t think for one minute that we haven’t been aware of the repetition, the redundancy of various topics and photos, ad nauseam. I justify the repetition because the concept of writing a new story 365 days a year is a daunting task. If someone had presented such a task for me to accomplish daily, I would have run the other way.

The sign for the property as we left after the beautiful experience.

But doing so has been of my own volition, and we’ve continued to do so with love and caring for our surroundings and our fine audience, who miraculously have stayed with us while it continued to grow over the years. For this, we are very grateful. Thank you, dear readers, for your commitment to reading our posts year after year. You amaze me! My attention span is not quite as good as yours!

Hopefully, soon as we reach out to the world before us, our stories and photos will be more exciting and varied. That’s our intention.

Be well.

Photo from one year ago today, February 27, 2021:

This photo was taken from the car window when we drove along the Crocodile River. For more photos, please click here.

Uncertainty prevails…We continue on…

We looked up to find a female impala and her youngster in the garden searching for pellets. The baby is so tiny.

Today is a quiet day. It’s hot and humid, leaving both of us with low energy. I didn’t sleep well last night, waking up every hour or so, having one weird dream after another as soon as I fell back to sleep. Finally, by 4:00 am, I drifted off and slept until 7:45, bolting out of bed knowing I needed to get up and start walking and prepare tonight’s dinner.

I’m making a dish Tom particularly likes; Low Carb Hamburger Scramble, a meaty, cheesy hamburger casserole with cream cheese, onions, and mushroom. I also like it a lot, but it’s so delicious that I tend to overeat. Lately, I’d gained some weight, and I have been working hard to lose it before heading to the US and then on a cruise.

They are both adorable.

Although I eat a keto diet and have done so for over 11 years, it’s easy to gain weight by overeating. Plus, I was making low-carb cakes for a while, and regardless of the low number of carbs in them, they are calorie-dense. There’s no “free lunch,” as they say. There’s never a way of eating that one doesn’t have to control portion size to some degree.

I have found that I never lose an ounce from walking vigorously, even when I do 10000 steps. Few people ever lose weight from exercise alone unless jogging or running or performing intense exercises for extended periods. It’s all about what goes into our mouths. If we overeat, we can gain weight, regardless of the carb count.

The baby impala is very shy.

Maintaining my weight has always been a struggle for me due mainly to my bad genes on my mother’s side of the family, most of whom were overweight and diabetic, eventually succumbing to heart-related consequences, a byproduct of high blood sugar uncontrolled blood pressure.

Luckily, I have been working hard to keep my blood sugar and blood pressure as low as possible by eliminating most carbs except non-starchy vegetables and dairy. I take one low dose medication for blood pressure, but no medication is required for my blood sugar due to my eating.

Chevy stops by each day. Could he be the dad of the young one?

It was always somewhat of a health-nut. It surprised me to discover I had coronary artery disease, although nothing is wrong with my heart itself. It is the arteries that are bad. I am grateful to be alive today, unlike many relatives who died from these conditions long before they reached my current age.

That is why I am so diligent about walking, diet, and lifestyle. Now, if I could be more consistent in sleeping better, I feel as if it’s all under control. Also, keeping stress under control is crucial. Overall, our lives are relatively stress-free. The only time I get my “hair in a bundle” is when I make a mistake and have to correct it promptly or when there’s some issue with a booking caused by human error.

Hal is at far left, Bossy in the center, and Bossy’s baby, who she only brings here once in a while.

Fortunately, neither of us has felt overly stressed about Covid, although we have spent plenty of time researching how it impacts our travels. Knowledge is the best means of reducing fear and anxiety. Now, with the war in Ukraine, expecting our cruise to be canceled, we know we’ll figure out how and where to travel until the following cruise. It always works out one way or another.

In the interim, our concern is for the citizens of Ukraine and this horrific experience and, of course, how this event will impact the economy in the US and the world. All we can do in the interim is pray for a quick resolution to end this madness.

Be safe.

Photo from one year ago today, February 26, 2021:

We call this male bushbuck Torn Ear. His left ear had an injury, leaving a flap of hair and skin. He used to visit several times a day. But we haven’t seen him in months. For more photos, please click here.

Horrific war in Kyiv, Ukraine…Our upcoming cruise in June to Ukraine…

Our upcoming June 29 Azamara cruise to Ukraine’s scheduled itinerary raises significant concerns.

Our first concern is for the people of Ukraine and their families and friends throughout the world, who are impacted by this cruel and senseless attack on the citizens of Kiev, also known as Kyiv. From now on, I will refer to the city under attack as Kyiv since many may not be aware of this alternate spelling.

My great grandfather was the mayor of Kyiv in the late 1800s. Many of my ancestors immigrated from Kyiv in the early 1900s, which I was well aware of in my childhood. Tom has conducted considerable research in Ancestry.com and has confirmed the lineage as far back as Ancestry.com records display.

Of course, our concern for the people of Kyiv and Ukraine, in general, supersedes our interest in sailing on this itinerary in June. In no way do I minimize the importance of the safety of human lives over the prospect of a cruise for our pleasure. There’s no comparison. From that viewpoint, I proceed with this post discussing the travel relevance to this awful situation.

This morning, as I began typing this post, we received an email message from Azamara that reads as follows:


February 24, 2021

Dear Azamara Guest,

We have been monitoring the situation between Ukraine and Russia for the past several weeks. Based on the latest overnight developments, we have found it necessary to change our current voyages to visit either of these countries. As a result, your Black Sea Voyage, which is scheduled to depart on June 29, 2022, on Azamara Onward®, is one of the voyages we will be adjusting to remove Ukraine and/or Russia as a port of call.

We need a little time to ensure the changes we make still result in a memorable, deeply immersive cruise vacation, so we just wanted to inform you that these changes will be shared with you soon.

We greatly appreciate your understanding and thank you for your cooperation throughout our journey as we have worked to manage this fluid situation. We assure you that your upcoming Azamara vacation will deliver the highest standards of service and quality for which we are known.

Should you have any questions, please contact your Travel Advisor for more details or visit https://www.azamara.com/contact-us for your local Azamara call center number.

We look forward to welcoming you on board.



For years, Tom always talked about sailing the Black Sea. I often hesitated to consider this possibility based on the outrageous cost of cruises to this magical area. When we first started traveling, we decided we both must be enthused about any future travel plans to make the bookings.

Recently, when we started booking cruises again, I knew we’d better fulfill Tom’s dream of the Black Sea after seeing how the pandemic impacted the world of travel to such a degree. As we age, we need to consider fulfilling the dreams of where we’d like to visit. No doubt, at some point, we’ll have to stop traveling.

Finally, a few months ago, we booked the Black Sea cruise on Azamara. As of yesterday, when Russian President Vladimir Putin initiated the war against Ukraine, we wondered if yet another venue we’ve booked would be canceled. After all, countless plans we’ve made in the past few years have been canceled by the provider, or we had canceled due to concerns over Covid-19 when we weren’t vaccinated.

Based on the above letter, it will be interesting to see what alternatives Azamara makes for the above itinerary. Since we’ve sailed on 27 cruises since the onset of our travels over the past nine years ago, and we have several other cruises booked into 2023, there may be some redundancy.

Surely, if that’s the case, Azamara will give us an option for a full refund or a future cruise. Then, we could transfer the funds we already paid for the cruise mentioned above of US $9862, ZAR 150773, over to one of the other upcoming Azamara cruises we have booked into the future.

Once we sail on the Celebrity Cruise on April 8, the remaining six cruises are on Azamara, on which we’ve never sailed. Why did we book so many cruises on an unfamiliar cruise line? Their itineraries matched where we wanted to travel, their ships are much smaller at around 600 passengers instead of 3000, and the reviews were fantastic.

Sure, Azamara may not have many amenities that many cruisers insist upon, but we are less picky. We are content if we have a clean, well-appointed cabin, working WiFi, and a chef who will cook meat and veg for me. Tom is easy to please with food selections. Plus, we hear Azamara is superior in all these areas and more.

We continue with prayers for the people of Ukraine and their loved ones and hope this massacre will end quickly. But nothing Putin can do going forward will ease the sorrow and fear being felt by the Ukrainian people, now or in the future.

Be safe.

Photo from one year ago today, February 25, 2021:

No doubt, giraffes like to get a load off their feet from time to time. Giraffes are the tallest land animals. “Female giraffes are up to 4.2 meters, 14 feet tall, and weigh up to 680 kg, 1,500 pounds. Meanwhile, males are up to 5.5 meters, 18 feet tall, and can weigh 1361 kg, 3,000 pounds.” For more photos, please click here.

Making plans for England…Yesterday…a fun and varied day!…Photos of Komatipoort…

Rita and I each had this fantastic smoked trout salad at Stoep Cafe. I can’t wait to return to order it once again.

Yesterday, the plan was for Rita and me to go to lunch while Tom and Gerhard drove to Nelspruit to return the last rental car before we depart Marloth Park in 27 days. Yesterday, knowing that Rita was picking me up to go to lunch at 11:30, I was determined to get in as much walking before we headed out. I managed to do 6000 steps before Rita and Gerhard pulled into the driveway.

It was great for Tom to have company for the over three-hour trip, and of course, Rita and I enjoyed the quiet time together, when in a few weeks, they will be leaving Marloth Park for a while. They aren’t sure when they’ll return, but hopefully, we’ll see them sometime after we return in December.

Tom stopped at Mohammed Moussa shop to get his Cole Haan shoes repaired. The total cost was ZAR 80, US $5.26.

Initially, we’d planned to go to lunch in Malalane, but Rita changed her appointment, so we decided to head to Komati, which is half the distance. It’s an excellent little restaurant where we’ve had many breakfasts, but I’d never been there for lunch. We decided on lunch at Stoep Cafe, a favorite haunt of ours and other locals.

Kathy got us all excited about Stoep when she often stopped there for coffee and a light breakfast a few times a week. In 2013/2014 and again in 2018, Tom and I often had breakfast there before grocery shopping. But, this time around, he and I hadn’t been there at all.

The shoe repair guys sit outside the general store waiting for customers who may need repairs.

However, before Rita and Gerhard returned to Marloth Park on New Year’s Eve, Kathy and I often got together at Stoep for breakfast and lively chatter. Once Rita arrived, the three of us would go, and she and I continued the ritual once Kathy and Don returned to the US a few months ago. We all miss them terribly. We are fortunate to have such good friends all around.

The lunch continued longer than we’d expected, and finally, by 3:00 pm, 1500 hrs, we were back at the house. A short time later, Gerhard and Tom arrived in the same car we had rented earlier. Budget Car Rental was low on vehicles and based on our excellent pricing. Tom didn’t hesitate to re-rent the exact vehicle.

Another strip of shops with vegetable stands in the parking lot.

With much for Rita and Gerhard to do back at their house, as they prepared for friends from the US visiting in a few days, they took off. It was too hot to be standing in the kitchen prepping for a meal. With nothing chopped and diced for dinner and the awful heat, I suggested we go out to dinner at Giraffe Cafe, a short distance down the road, and Tom agreed.

Before we headed out the door, friends Linda and Ken called, and we wrapped up plans as to when we’ll be seeing them in England around the first of May when they return from visiting the tulips in Holland. Gee, we should do that someday! That sounds like something we’d love to do as well. Most of our friends are world travelers in one way or another. They may not be homeless like us, but they do get around the world!

There are countless vegetable stands on the side of the road.

By 4:30 pm, 1630 hrs, we reached Giraffe, running into a few locals we know and making our way to the bar where we chatted endlessly, sharing the details of our partial day apart and discussing plans for the future. Based on the information we’ve read online, it appears all of our cruises should sail as planned.

I ordered a small salad with grilled chicken, and Tom had the chicken schnitzel, which he’d ordered there in the past. The food isn’t as good as Jabula, nor is the atmosphere quite as lively. But, we had a pleasant evening and returned home to get into comfortable clothes and watch an episode of Billions on Showtime and “1883” (my new latest favorite show) on Paramount Plus on Amazon Prime,

Huge bags of onions are sold at cheap prices.

After a reasonably good night’s sleep, we were both ready to tackle another day. Time is flying so quickly right now; it’s astounding.

Yeah, the power just came back on! That certainly changes my attitude about walking today. At least I can turn on the air-con from time to time to cool off.

Many locals’ only source of income is from selling vegetables and fruit from local farms.

Be well.

Photo from one year ago today, February 24, 2021:

There were no photos on the post from one year ago today, but there was a video from Garage Logic, a podcast Tom has listened to for years on which he is mentioned every day! To listen to the video, we posted one year ago, please click this link. Now, one year later, Tom continues to be mentioned each day. They usually mention him toward the end of the podcast. If you’d like to hear more mentions of Tom, please click here.

Birthday festivities have ended…Back to pleasure in the bush with friends and animals…

Today is a busy day, so I’ll need to hurry through today’s post and be on my way. At 11:30 am, Rita is picking me up, and we’re heading to Malalane for her chiropractic appointment, and then we’ll head to lunch at a popular restaurant, The Deck. I can’t remember the last time I attended a “girl’s lunch” although I’ve had several “girl’s breakfasts” at Stoep Cafe with Kathy and Rita.

Tom and Gerhard are driving to Nelspruit to drop off the rental car for Tom to pick up another, which will be the last car we’ll need until we depart four weeks from today, on March 23. Time flies by quickly as we savor every last moment in the bush.

We hadn’t seen Slyvia for a while, and now she’s also returned. Could they have been off giving birth to their young? We’ll find out soon if they return with little ones.

Most likely, when we return in December, we won’t be staying at this house. The animals we know and love most likely won’t find us at the next house, a few miles, km, from here. But Little found me when we arrived here after a two-year absence, so maybe, he’ll find us again.

The animals can wander an area of a few kilometers each day, so we never know who we may see again when we return in December to a house we hope to rent, owned by Louise and Danie and recently remodeled.

Broken Horn’s face is muddy from digging for roots.

Lately, Hal and Broken Horn have become quite a source of delight for both of us. Although they may appear simultaneously, most often, it’s one, then the other, as was the case this morning. Their personalities and demeanor are uniquely different. Hal is more easy-going with the piglets and moms, while Broken Horn doesn’t hesitate to show them his horns.

He never hurts them, but an injury could happen. We often see mature warthogs with severe injuries from messing with wildebeests and kudus. The bushbucks back off entirely when a larger animal is near. We’ve never seen a bushbuck with one of those gaping holes due to an angry larger animal. Overall, the animals get along well.

Broken Horn also steps up onto the veranda and can stand there for an hour waiting for us to “do something.”

We are cautious when tossing pellets to ensure no unnecessary competition between species occurs. Of course, there are occasional scuffles within each species, mainly just chasing one another off. We humans need to avoid inciting any disharmony between the wildlife. Their lives are hard enough to have humans making it worse.

This morning, I am on a more frequent walking schedule, hoping to get in as many steps as possible before Rita gets here. I haven’t missed a day since I began, shortly after the start of the new year. I’ve managed to meet or beat my prior week’s number of steps each week. At this point, 8000 to 10000 steps per day seems to be the number that works best for our lifestyle and available time.

This band of mongooses has been hanging out for hours each day, staying in the shade when it’s been so hot.

When we get to Florida, I will be able to walk outdoors. There are plenty of birds and marine life photos I’ll be able to take since we’ll be situated right on the water. Of course, I’ll be taking my phone or camera if I see any alligators. It has been over two years since we’ve been close to the sea in India in 2020/2021.

So that’s it for today, folks. I have to get a few things done before heading out, including some photos to this post and wrapping it up.

It’s good to see Holey Moley once again. She’s been busy elsewhere lately.

I hope you have a great day wherever you may be in the world.

Photo from one year ago today, February 23, 2021:

Frank and The Misses were trotting over to the veranda for some seeds. For more photos, please click here.

Part 3…Exciting birthday plans revealed…This is the fifth time my birthday was spent in the bush!…

Us at the bar at Jabula on the night of my 74th birthday.

This morning, we’re off to Komati for groceries, a stop at the pharmacy, and a shoe repair shop suggested by friend Janet at my birthday dinner at Jabula on Sunday night. Tom has a favorite pair of Cole Haan loafers he’d like to have repaired since that style is no longer available.

Last night we were busy at the house. Tom noticed some price changes for future Azamara cruises, and by calling waiting on hold for almost an hour, he was able to save us another US $1500, ZAR 22809. But, instead of lowering the prices of the cruises, they have us US $500, ZAR 7603, additional cabin credit on three of the cruises.

Dawn had set up the table with decorations and lovely place settings for our dinner for ten. One couple couldn’t come due to the husband being in hospital.

What benefit is there with additional cabin credit? Since we wanted to get the best possible price, we booked the cruise without perks, such as free drinks and WiFi. Overall, we were ahead by removing these and going with the lower pricing. With these cabin credits, which will now be US $1400, ZAR 21265, to US $1500, ZAR 22809, we can use the cabin credit for WiFi and drink packages if we choose.

Since neither of us drinks alcohol during the day, generally, it doesn’t pay to use a drink package when some drinks are allowed at certain times and events, such as wine during meals on the Azamara cruises. But Tom doesn’t drink wine, so figure that out once we’re on board and see the drink prices.

Danie, Louise, Rita, Steve, Janet, Mick, Lynne, Tom, me, and Gerhard from the left. What a fine group of people!!

Our upcoming cruise is on a Celebrity ship. We won’t know if they will re-start the priority club cocktail hour each evening, which had been suspended due to the pandemic. Today, we heard that most cruise lines are doing away with masking requirements. Perhaps in the next six weeks, more Covid related restrictions will be eased.

We wanted to share the photos and events from my birthday party on Sunday night. First off, Dawn did a fantastic job of ensuring everything was perfect, which is always the case whenever we are there. The decorations, the table setting, the service, and the food were exemplary.

Tom’s usual plate of ribs with white rice and creamed spinach.

There was never a dull moment. David,  Jabula‘s new assistant manager, replacing Lyn, who moved on to other ventures, showed up during sundowner time, bringing me a beautiful gift of body product! Dawn, the owner, had another gorgeous collection of bath products. Louise and Danie went over the top with the elephant interaction and a bottle of my favorite wine.

Rita and Gerhard lavished me with local African jewelry, which I love,  and a new external hard drive (which we desperately needed) loaded with dozens of recent movies! How thoughtful was all of that!

Lynne’s espetada, barbecued meat served on a tall skewer.

I’d told the group “no gifts,” but that request isn’t always observed. I was grateful to have the eight guests at our table. All I wanted from Tom was to host the dinner for ten, including drinks, bottles of wine, and other beverages, meals, and tips. Dawn served complimentary shooters after dinner. The entire bill with everything included was US $291.64, ZAR 4418!!! There is nowhere in the world that we could host ten people for this reasonable cost with exceptional food, drinks, service, and ambiance.

The restaurant usually closes at 8:30 pm, 2030 hrs, on Sundays. After a delightful evening of lively conversation and endless laughter, we all didn’t leave until 10:00 pm, 2200 hrs. It couldn’t have been more fun!

Even while dining out, wildlife comes to visit. In this case, it was a giant grasshopper on the salt shaker.

Back at the house, we both couldn’t stop reeling over the fun day and evening. I couldn’t wait to start preparing posts with the photos from such a memorable birthday. Thank you to our friends who shared this day with me, with us, and so many of our readers who wrote to extend their birthday greetings. Wow! How lucky am I???

Be well.

Photo from one year ago today, February 22, 2021:

Fred and Ethel. Fred is lying down. Notice warts on his face, and Ethel is standing behind him. She had no facial warts, typical for females. For more photos, please click here.

Part 2…Exciting birthday plans revealed…Please watch our video!!!..This is the fifth time my birthday was spent in the bush!…

Let me start with this. I’d planned on doing a comprehensive post on our elephant interaction yesterday morning at Kwa Madwala, with photos and stories from earlier days when it was open to the public. Today is a brutally hot and humid day with around 90F, 32C, but the dew point is 73. The air is so thick it’s almost hard to breathe, and I’m struggling to get motivated, a rarity for me.

Based on hard times over the past few years and the financial ravages of Covid-19, the formerly famous game reserve has been closed for almost two years. It has become rundown, requiring a massive renovation and restoration. Plans are in the works to bring this magical place back to life next year.

Tom touched the soft velvet-like skin on the back of the elephant’s ear while Louise waited to do the same.

Online is it described as follows:

“This unique hilltop camp is without a doubt the true pride of the Kruger Park south area. In 2000 the neighboring farms abandoned hunting which was very much in vogue and joined the vision in terms of eco-tourism, and the name was changed to Kwa Madwala, meaning ‘the place of the rock’ in Swazi.”

I’d hoped to find a website for the reserve, but unfortunately, their site is no longer active, and there was very little information online to aid in the preparation of today’s post. The guide at the property, one of two that introduced us to the two wild elephants, told a story about the property while I was engrossed in taking photos and watching the magnificent beasts.

Tom filled me in on the details today to help me share the remarkable story of the elephants and how they came to become such an integral part of the property.

Rita was sitting on his leg after he lay down.

There are seven elephants in the herd. Yesterday, we met two of them, a female and a larger male, brother and sister. Two calves were born in the past few years, a few years apart. Years ago, the plan in the area was to cull the elephants due to some economic reasons.

The elephants were rescued and moved to the bush near the reserve and placed in a boma while they were cared for and fed in an attempt to get them used to be around humans. It took over 18 months of loving and gentle care to watch the elephants change from hostile wild animals to gentle giant beasts, suitable to being around visitors and guests of the reserve.

Danie and Louise were hanging onto our elephant’s tusks.

No ropes, chains, or disciplinary instruments were used on the animals at any point. A thoughtful food reward program was instituted from the start, and in time, they associated humans with kindness and tasty fruits, vegetables, and pellets.

The female elephant, the first one shown, is 34 years old, and the male, her brother, is 30 years old. We couldn’t have enjoyed the experience more. When the elephants had enough of us, they wandered off after the handler jumped off and returned to grazing in the bush. They are not fenced or chained. What a fantastic experience!

Gerhard and Rita interact with the friendly and gentle elephant.

After the elephants left, Louise and Danie set up a fabulous brunch for us and Rita and Gerhard. There, at the picnic table on the resort’s veranda, the enjoyment of the special day continued with great food, drinks, and conversation. A special thanks to Louise and Danie for managing a way for us to get into this now-closed venue and be a part of this extraordinary experience. The elephants were happy to interact with humans and show off their skills once again. Such amazing animals. Such a fantastic day.

Louise and Danie served a delicious platter of low-carb treats. Even the crackers were low carb!

Wow! It was a fabulous birthday! Tomorrow, we’ll share Part 3 of my birthday celebrations when our group dined at Jabula and had one heck of a good time.

Thanks to our readers, family, and friends who sent me countless birthday wishes. It meant the world to me!

Photo from one year ago today, February 21, 2021:

My birthday last year was also at Jabule with our dear friends Louise and Danie. They have a magical way of making every get-together special. For more, please click here.

Part 1…Exciting birthday plans yet to be revealed…This is the fifth time my birthday was spent in the bush!…

We couldn’t believe we could be so close and interact with the two elephants who freely roam in the wild.

As I write this at 8:30 am, soon at 9;15, Louise and Danie are picking us up in their vehicle to take us to a surprise for my birthday. I have no clue what it is, nor does Tom. When we return in the early afternoon, I will finish this post and share with you what we did.

Tonight is my birthday dinner at Jabula, which undoubtedly will be another great time spent with friends. We decided to host the dinner and tell guests, “no gifts” since I don’t have room in my luggage for anything new. When we arrive at Karen and Rich’s house on March 24, a box from our mailing service will be waiting with some new clothes for me, suitable for the upcoming cruise.

The elephant was managed by the handler sitting on top of her. But, these are wild animals, not ridden by guests or managed with any ropes or chains. Once we were gone, the handler got off her, and she wandered back into the bush, returning only when she wanted treats and attention.

I’d ordered jeans, bras, and tops but still have to purchase a few items while we are in Florida. I need a good pair of walking shoes and dressy shoes for the cruise. The shoes I am walking in now don’t provide the necessary support. Tom needs several items as well.

Well, we’re off for the surprise adventure. Of course, I am taking the camera and hope to be posting interesting photos of what we’ve seen and done.

We’re back. It’s 1:45 pm, 1345 hrs, and we had a most extraordinary time. Louise and Danie outdid themselves, and much to our delight, Rita and Gerhard surprised us and met us at the game reserve. We drove for about 45 minutes in their four-wheel-drive vehicle on a pot-hole-ridden road to Jeppe’s Reef to the currently closed game reserve, KWA Madwala.

On my 74th birthday, I was gifted with an opportunity to interact with elephants in the wild. What an extraordinary gift! Thank you, Louise and Danie.

Several reasons resulted in this game reserve being closed. Still, mainly Covid-19 seemed to have the most significant impact when foreigners weren’t flying into South Africa for such an extended period. It’s only now that the possibility of a grand re-opening has presented itself, as more and more flights are coming into the country packed with holidaymakers looking for safari adventures.

The reserve appeared quiet and like a ghost town. But according to the managers who took the time to come and meet us, they will be re-opening sometime in the next three to six months when it will again become a thriving establishment.

The magic of this exceptional property is that a herd of seven elephants, who roam free in the wild, come into the grounds of the reserve and greet visitors after years of doing so, accepting apples and pellets as treats, allowing the guests to interact with them.

The path we walked in hopes that the elephants would be coming to see us. They enjoy playing with visitors!

Getting the elephants accustomed to humans under these circumstances took years of loving and gentle persuasion, all accomplished with food rewards. There are no ropes, chains, or sharp objects needed to entice the elephants to interact with visiting guests.

Based on the fact that Louise and Danie know the managers well, they were able to gain access to the property and see if the elephants would willingly come to an open area to meet us, accepting apples and pellets while allowing us to be close to them, to touch them and be up close and personal. No doubt, it was a remarkable experience, especially knowing they did so of their own volition.

Based on the festivities of my birthday continuing today in a few hours and my need to get my walking done, I will be writing more about this adventure in tomorrow’s post with many more photos. Tonight, we’ll take more photos of my small dinner gathering at Jabula and look forward to sharing more.

Thank you to many of our readers/family/friends who have sent me heartfelt birthday wishes. I wish there were time to write back personally to everyone for the messages I’ve received in my inbox. But, I assure you, I will be reading each message with appreciation.

Have a fabulous day!

Photo from one year ago today, February 20, 2021:

We wrote in the caption of this photo, on my 70th birthday in 2018, at my party at Jabula with friends: “We’ll always remember this birthday as a special event for both of us; celebrating life, health, our experiences, and the fine friends we’ve made along the way.” For more from that date, please click here.

Finally booked our flights and rental car for the USA in 32 days…Sailing across the sea in 48 days…

Big Daddy comes right up to the veranda to let us know he has arrived!

After spending the past 13 months in Marloth Park and the prior ten months in lockdown in a hotel room in Mumbai, we are ready to be on the move once again. Don’t get me wrong. We have enjoyed Marloth Park as much as ever, if not more than all of our prior visits to the bush. But, after feeling a little confined, we are ready to return to our lives of world travel.

I must admit we have procrastinated booking our flight and rental car, waiting to see if the upcoming transatlantic cruise on the Celebrity Silhouette would be canceled. Flights are booking up quickly, and we don’t want to lose the opportunity for the flights with the shortest duration. We can no longer wait.

Lots of girls and young ones in the garden.

It wasn’t easy finding a fair price. Car rentals are extremely high in the US, as much as seven times more than what we’ve been paying in South Africa. This time we got the best price we’ve seen in years in the US using the link on the right side of our home page with Auto Europe. We ended with a four-door Buick at US $688, ZAR 10400, a price we were thrilled to get for the 15-day rental, averaging at US $46, ZAR 695.

If you use this link on our site on the right side of the page, we receive a small commission. But you may get the benefit of a great price you may discover after shopping around online. Our goal is always to have our advertisers offer prices as good as you can get on your own and, on occasion, even better. Using our links makes us a little revenue that helps offset some of the cost of maintaining our site. Thank you to all of our readers who’ve been using our links.

Seigfried and Roy sharing pellets.

We booked the flight using our link for Expedia after shopping around for the best possible flight and pricing. Many flight apps don’t allow including the flight from Nelspruit/Mpumalanga/Kruger to be included in the package of flights. If it’s not included, we’d have to collect our bags in Johannesburg and check in a second time.

As it turned out, our flight on March 23 is a total of 27 hours, arriving in Tampa on March 24 at 1:55 pm, 1355 hrs. We’ll collect our bags and head to the Avis counter to get the car and then be on our way to newlywed friends Karen and Rich’s fabulous home in Apollo Beach, where we’ll stay until we leave for Fort Lauderdale on April 8 to board our cruise.

It will be wonderful to spend the two weeks with our friends. The four of us have great memories and so much in common. We are looking forward to being with them both.

A monitor lizard was scurrying off into the tall grass.

This morning I’ve been busy walking while stopping intermittently while we booked the flights and car. Louise loaned us some large totes to store items we would leave behind. Now we can relax for a while, having this out of the way. Soon, I’ll begin sorting and packing for the upcoming journey. After all, we will be back in Marloth Park in December, after arriving in Cape Town by cruise.

As mentioned earlier, we haven’t booked any holiday homes or hotels for the almost two months we’ll spend in the UK awaiting our next flight to Istanbul at the end of June. We won’t feel safe committing to holiday homes when the cruise could still be canceled last-minute, and we’ll have to make alternate plans as to how and where we’ll spend the time from April through June. We aren’t concerned about that now. It will all work out.

Today is a quiet day, spending lots of time with our furry friends who have been coming in droves all since early this morning. Now that I’m just about done with today’s post, almost completed today’s walking goal, and have most of tonight’s dinner for the braai ready to go, the remainder of the day will be easy and pleasant.

We hope your day is as easy and pleasant as ours.

Photo from one year ago today, February 19, 2021:

Tiny’s best begging pose for more pellets. We haven’t seen him since we returned from the US at the end of July. We continue to call for him. For more photos, please click here.