Silver Wind Live Voyage Report – Day 7

On Safari at Hluhluwe-Umfolozi, Silversea-style

Out on a Silver Shore Adventure at the Hluhluwe-Umfolozi Game Reserve. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders
Out on a Silver Shore Adventure at the Hluhluwe-Umfolozi Game Reserve. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

This morning aboard Silversea’s beautiful Silver Wind was notable for two reasons. First, the sun finally made an appearance this morning, having remained hidden since we were in Port Elizabeth last Thursday. But secondly, I finally began to realize that my time here aboard Silver Wind is all-too-quickly drawing to a close, with our Friday morning arrival in Cape Town looming large on the horizon.

A Safari vehicle traverses a portion of the park's 118,000 acres of wilderness. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders
A Safari vehicle traverses a portion of the park’s 118,000 acres of wilderness. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

Perhaps that’s why I was almost reluctant to leave the comfort of the Silver Wind this morning; I could have easily grabbed a deck chair up by the pool and read one of the two books I brought with me, both of which are languishing on the table in my suite. But, we are in Richards Bay, South Africa – and the opportunity to take in a 9.5 hour game drive safari was too good to pass up.

My favorite tree on the entire reserve. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders
My favorite tree on the entire reserve. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

Departing the pier at 7:50am, our motorcoach whisked us to the Hluhluwe-Umfolozi (hoo-loo-weh Um-foll-osee) Game Reserve, located roughly an hour’s drive north of Richards Bay.

Upon arrival, the ten of us on this Silversea Silver Shore excursion split up into two groups, piling into two open-air Toyota LandCruiser jeeps. Our guide, Jan, had seen a lion earlier on in the morning, and we set out to try to locate her.

On the hunt for Big Five Game. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders
On the hunt for Big Five Game. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

Almost immediately, we ran into a group of water buffalo off to one side of the road. Eventually, the leader decided they should cross the road, and the rest of the herd dutifully did what it was told. Jan’s knowledge about these animals was immense; one lone water buffalo was walking apart from the herd. Jan said he was a member of “the old boy’s club” and that he’d been banned from the herd, but stayed close so as not to appear weak. He did admit that eventually, he would be picked off by another predator.

When we found them, the water buffalo got tired of their current location... Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders
When we found them, the water buffalo got tired of their current location… Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders
...and decided it was time to cross the road. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders
…and decided it was time to cross the road. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

Speaking of predators, the reserve is littered with lethal things, like the beetle that secretes and acid-like resin that will burn your skin, or the green reeds that have a light membrane bobble atop them that will also unleash a toxin. Then, there’s the Golden Orb spiders that can suspend their webs across entire road and are so impenetrable that their webs more closely resemble the materials used in Kevlar vests.

I could wax on about my journey, but I’d rather show you some of today’s breathtaking sights:

A lone giraffe hiding in the bushes. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders
A lone giraffe hiding in the bushes. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders
Zebras. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders
Zebras. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders
We stumbled upon three separate zebras while turning a corner on one of the reserve's many winding roads. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders
We stumbled upon three separate zebras while turning a corner on one of the reserve’s many winding roads. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders
Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders
Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

Owing to the persistent rain that rolled in over lunch, sightings on our two-hour long game drive this afternoon were less plentiful. The reasoning is clear: animals don’t like being wet, either. But like a true adventurer, Jan was on the hunt for the elephant we’d glimpsed earlier in the morning – and he found him.

Whoa there. A large male elephant "in full mast" isn't terribly happy to see us. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders
Whoa there. A large male elephant “in full mast” isn’t terribly happy to see us. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

As we rounded a corner, there he was: standing in the middle of the road near the crest of a hill five hundred yards ahead of us. That he wasn’t entirely happy to see us was obvious: he was searching for a female elephant because he was in “full mast.” Which means precisely what you think it does.

Jan rolled the jeep forward a bit, and the elephant began to come down the road towards us. Jan backed the jeep down the narrow dirt road slowly and yelled at the elephant to “get out of here” in Afrikaans. The elephant walked forward a bit before veering left into the heavy bushes and trees and disappeared out of sight.

Hiding in the bushes...Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders
Hiding in the bushes…Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

With the elephant lost in the undergrowth, Jan was hesitant to pass. Finally, he caught a glimpse of the elephant, waiting us out. Gunning the engine, the jeep raced up the hill – and the elephant came into view.

Then, he charged the jeep.

Taken one second later than the previous image; the elephant is charging at us, moving towards the jeep with a frightening speed. Terrifying and amazing. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders
Taken one second later than the previous image; the elephant is charging at us, moving towards the jeep with a frightening speed. Terrifying and amazing. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

Now, when I say “charged”, I mean “charged.” I took two photographs of this: in the span of less than two seconds, the elephant had cleared the bushes entirely and was making for the road.  He can run at speeds of up to 30 kilometers an hour, and when something that weighs as much as a Peterbilt comes roaring out of the underbrush, it commands a certain amount of attention.  For me, I went from being fascinated to absolutely terrified in the span of about half a second – and I am not embarrassed to say that. But once again, Jan was an absolute pro, speeding us down the hill and out of harm’s way. We stopped for a moment to collect ourselves, but he’d said that as long as the elephant remained at full mast – which can last as long as three months – he would remain dangerous.

Less Dangerous: the warthog. And, if you believe Disney, they're pretty good singers, too. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders
Less Dangerous: the warthog. And, if you believe Disney, they’re pretty good singers, too. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

Still, I’m amazed at the amount of knowledge Jan had about all of the animals at the Game Reserve, specifically these elephants. At full mast, you can smell them: a scent he accurately described as a cheap plastic tablecloth. And he could track these elephants by scent alone.

With only six of us in the jeep, the day was an amazing, intimate, and breathtaking experience. Words absolutely fail me. I could write a thousand pages, each trying to describe this excursion in a thousand different ways and never come up with anything more substantial than “amazing” and “breathtaking.”

The surrounding scenery on its own is stunning. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders
The surrounding scenery on its own is stunning. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

Other Silver Shore Excursions on offer today included an early Sunrise Hluhluwe-Umfolozi Game Drive; another excursion to the St. Lucia Nature Preserve; a Game Drive and Vula Zulu Cultural Show; a Shakaland Zulu Village excursion that would take guests to the set of Shaka Zulu; and a massive, 10-hour combination game drive and iSimangaliso Wetland cruise tour.

With the weather remaining unpredictable well into the evening hours (I almost got blown away trying to take a dusk shot of the Silver Wind), the scheduled Poolside BBQ was, understandably, cancelled. But on Silversea, cancelled doesn’t mean cancelled: it means replaced with something different and arguably just as special.

Reboarding the Silver Wind in Richards Bay where it was, appropriately, very windy. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders
Reboarding the Silver Wind in Richards Bay where it was, appropriately, very windy. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

In place of the outdoor barbecue, The Restaurant on Deck 4 held a special Chef’s Galley dinner, complete with live music and entertainment. Guests helped themselves to a stunning array of foods, served up right from the galley aboard the Silver Wind.  Not only is it a cool idea, it’s also a great replacement for the pool deck barbecue, and really made the evening for guests onboard. Entertainment was moved into the Parisian Lounge, while The Bar hosted a unique disco this evening.

The poolside barbecue is one of my favorite features aboard a Silversea cruise - but when it can't happen, they come up with a great solution. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders
The poolside barbecue is one of my favorite features aboard a Silversea cruise – but when it can’t happen, they come up with a great solution. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

The crew of the Silver Wind makes this look effortless. But I know it wasn’t: a lot of hard work went in to pulling off this evening. Certainly, it would have been easier to simply cancel the barbecue and go back to the regularly-scheduled dinner arrangements, but they took the extra time and effort to ensure this evening would be truly special.

Tonight, guests aboard Silver Wind were invited to dine in The Restaraunt (above) on Deck 4 and help themselves to food arranged in the ship's galley. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders
Tonight, guests aboard Silver Wind were invited to dine in The Restaraunt (above) on Deck 4 and help themselves to food arranged in the ship’s galley. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

To me, this voyage aboard Silver Wind has been one of the ultimate adventures: a true safari-cruise that lets you be as adventurous as you’d like to during the day, all the while returning to the luxury that Silversea provides onboard. And I cannot even begin to tell you how much that particular arrangement plays to my every sense.

Delicious.. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders
Delicious.. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

There’s something very magical, very special about this itinerary. The fact that it is on Silversea is the icing on the cake, and I can truthfully say this now, before the voyage has even come to a close: this is the cruise I will forever remember, and the one I will always long to return to.  Today wasn’t just a shore excursion; it was an education. A delightful, luxurious education.

Silver Wind in Richards Bay, South Africa as evening falls on January 21, 2013. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders
Silver Wind in Richards Bay, South Africa as evening falls on January 21, 2013. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

Silver Wind, South Africa

Day 1Cape Town, South Africa
Day 2Cruising The Indian Ocean
Day 3Addo Elephant Park
Day 4Day at Sea
Day 5Maputo, Mozambique
Day 6iSimangaliso Wetland Park
Day 7On Safari
Day 8Durban & Tala Private Game Reserve
Day 9East London & an Inkwenkwezi Safari
Day 10Day at Sea
Voyage Recap

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3 Comments

  • Absolutely WOW WOW WOW!! there are not words to describe what I just read amazing! Silversea really knows how to make changes to the pool BBQ seems easy when bad weather happens! It looked absolutely beautiful! Reminds me of la terrazza on the spirit when our pool party was moved! It’s always stunning and amazing.

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  • What an awesome Dichotomy! The raw wild of the safari….to the refined luxury aboard ship! Ahhhh….the sublime joys of cruising!

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  • Not only is Hluhluwe Game Reserve the oldest proclaimed reserve in Africa but also saved the Rhino’s from extinction. A mere 100 Rhino’s left on Earth less than 100 years ago and it was through dedication of this amazing reserve that revived the numbers. http://www.hluhluwegamereserve.com

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