Worldwide Shark Mission – Second Weekend off – adventures in Plettenburg Bay

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For our second weekend off, we decided to visit the Farmer’s market in Sedgefield and also have some adventures in Plettenberg Bay getting up close and personal with animals of the terrestrial kind.

On the Saturday, the journalism intern Monique, Megan and I caught a taxi from Mossel Bay to Sedgefield which is about a one hour drive so that we could experience the Farmer’s market we had all heard so much about. Once we arrived at the market we saw a minstrel band singing lively jazz songs – a bit more upbeat with a tambourine, accordion and guitars – as well as very enthusiastic and excitable expressions. I felt such great vibes whilst standing and watching them play – it was really lovely to see the band bring smiles to the crowd. I decided to donate a small tip to thank them for their wonderful music.

We saw that there were roughly 3 sections to the market – the first two were goods including clothing, ornaments, crafts, crystals and jewellery among other things, and the third had a huge selection of home-made foods with an incredible array of foods to try.

We started in the middle section and worked our way through checking out things we might want to later buy and also just taking in all of the beautiful fabrics and diversity. There were stalls with key rings of various African animals made with wire and beads, bowls, a few stalls with “hippie” clothing, leatherworks, toys, artwork, ornaments and also – a delicious fudge stall. We made our way through to the other goods section where we were surprised to be offered locally-brewed beer and also managed to see a rescued Cape Eagle owl at a stall that promoted their rehabilitation centre.

After looking through every stall, we made our way to the other section of the market which was on the far right and walked past all of the food and drink stalls until we had finally decided – I ended up getting a chicken pita pocket and a coconut cream smoothie along with dried kale chips. There were so many dogs at the market and everyone was really friendly allowing us to pet them. There were also various mentions over the microphone of competitions/raffles as well as adoption notices for dogs.

On the Sunday we were booked in with R&R Tours and Transfers and picked up early in the morning for our full day in Plettenberg Bay – a popular place filled with a variety of tourist activities and nature parks. Our driver Reyne (Renhard) was really friendly and we had great chats with him about animals (especially birds in South Africa), hobbies, travel stories and life in general.

After a two hour drive, we started our morning with a visit to our first destination – Birds of Eden following Reyne’s advice to go there first since it was such a beautiful morning and the birds tend to hide if it gets too windy. We purchased a combo ticket which allowed for us to visit Birds of Eden, Monkeyland and Jukani  all in one day.

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Upon entering Birds of Eden, I was amazed to see how high the dome aviary was and it felt amazing and also slightly nostalgic walking along the bridged paths and steps being as quiet as we could, looking around us for any birds. Some birds were perched quietly above the walking track and would have been easy to miss had we not been so quiet and observant. We saw a parrot that was walking alongside a small girl which we all thought was really sweet and another parrot jumped onto Megan’s shirt and was very curious about the shiny buttons on her shirt. We were able to see plenty of stunning, beautiful birds including countless parrots, macaws, ibis’s, flamingos, blue cranes and plenty more. We enjoyed our pizza lunch at their cafe overlooking the lake where we saw plenty of species of birds working together to build their nests on the surrounding vegetation.

After spending a decent two hours or so in Birds of Eden, our next stop was Monkeyland, which was right next door. On our way across the carpark, we saw a group of wild baboons sitting on the grass, enjoying the sun and picking and eating flowers. It was so nice seeing an animal you are told is dangerous just chilling out, looking as peaceful as ever just a few metres away from yourself, the footpath and the cars.

We walked down the entrance to Monkeyland next and were amazed to see monkeys running around all around us as we walked to the reception – understandably it took us a little while to get there after all of the excitement at seeing the monkeys straight away. After showing our tickets, we headed outside to wait for our guide and were captivated by a very active group of ring-tailed lemurs running back and forth, foraging in the vegetation by the gate. There was one female who had the most adorable baby lemur attached to her front on her lower belly and it was one of the cutest things I’ve ever seen.

After our guide turned up, she started hurrying us along since we were all taking so many pictures and was a bit nonchalant for the rest of the trip – seemingly not too fazed or excited. We managed to see a few different species including plenty of ring-tailed lemurs that sat looking as if they were meditating, capuchins, vervet monkeys, black and white lemurs, gibbons and howler monkeys and even a tortoise. The suspension bridge we got to walk across was just incredible! It was made with thin wood and bamboo strips on the sides to hold onto and the bridge swayed as you walked along. Our tour was one hour in total and went by a lot quicker than I thought given the advertised size of the park.

Our third and final visit was at Jukani wildlife sanctuary and on our arrival we were assigned to a guided tour, so we hurried past the zebras on our right hand side (with the warning sign that they bite) to get to our tour guide – Bert. We started off at the tiger enclosure and were also able to see and learn about lions, caracal, white tigers, hyenas, jackals, cheetahs, jaguars, cougars, honey badgers, raccoons, leopards and a huge variety of snakes.  Bert was a really knowledgeable person and we all found the tour very informative as we learnt a lot about the big cats, their individual personalities as well as their status in the wild.

My favourite facts of the tour were how cats in the Felis family (house cats up to cougars) purr and cats in the Panthera family (lions, tigers, jaguars etc) roar; hyenas have a female dominant/matriarch system and also have pseudopenises which they give birth out of and many don’t survive, they actively hunt 80% of their food and only scavenge the other 20% of the time, and that they are born with their eyes open and “ready for war” as Bert put it; white tigers have such a limited gene pool all over the world that most cubs are born with deformities and lose their eyesight quickly.

The white tiger at Jukani was only three or four years old and apparently already 80% through his life. Apparently a lot of zoos and wildlife parks/sanctuaries are trying to come together to stop captive breeding as it is kind of cruel to the animals as they don’t have a good quality or long-lived life.

The snake house at the end of the tour was amazing and it was lovely seeing so many harmless and also very venomous snakes so close and behind the safety of the glass – we were able to get a close up look at all sorts of snakes including the black mamba, puffadder and anacondas.

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About Author

My name is Jamie and I am a 24 year old who was born and raised in New Zealand. Growing up, I was always running around exploring rockpools and the coastlines when I could. I was lucky enough that my love of the oceans was nurtured through various school camps and field trips exploring the Ohope rockpools and sampled the intertidal zone at Goat Island marine reserve. My love of marine life and desire to learn more led me to study at the University of Auckland where I obtained a Bachelor of Science majoring in biological science and specialising in marine science. Towards the end of my degree, however, I realised that I wanted to gain more knowledge and practical experience with a variety of shark species before heading into post-graduate level study. I had also never ventured out of New Zealand so decided it was time to travel! My love of sharks and drive to help with their conservation has led me to travel while gaining valuable experience through research internships. From South Africa, working with white sharks, sevengills and benthic catsharks to the Bahamas where I’m currently working with lemon sharks, tiger sharks, nurse sharks and reef sharks. I’ve decided to share my travel experiences while following my dream of getting close to and learning about as many shark species as possible all around the world!

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