Being a born and bred child of Gauteng, I live and breathe the city; paint it red, drive to its limits for business, and keep up with its always-awake spirit, keeping myself properly hydrated at its endless watering holes. Any adventure outside of Jo’burg feels greener, cleaner, and more organic than the concrete jungle, but I can’t stay out of my city for long before the hive needs me back again.
So outside excursions are precious and have to be a quality experience – worthwhile enough to call me outside of my comfort zone. The greener the better for these short trips away from the Motherland, which is why Port Elizabeth is one of my favourite great escapes from the City of Gold. I drop my laptop at the door and pick up my binoculars; leave my finely pressed suit in the closet and whip out my khaki shorts; exchange boardrooms for game drives; air conditioning for an onshore breeze.
I forget about the Big 5 up north and concentrate on ticking off the Big 7 from my list: elephant, leopard, black rhino, lion, buffalo, Great White Shark and Southern Right Whale. I make sure that my Port Elizabeth accommodation is as close to all of these attractions as possible, to minimise the time spent driving and to optimise the time spent searching for wildlife and immortalising these creatures in digital pixels. These aren’t the only flying, crawling, galloping, and charging animals to see in the Eastern Cape. I’ve captured zebra, many different buck and antelope, as well as seals in these parts (on camera, of course). I come this far south to see Africa’s finest beasts because there’s one tiny critter that you won’t find in this area – the Malaria mosquito. It has the propensity to impose on a good safari holiday and I’d rather not chance it.
One of my favourite places to go to experience the animal kingdom at its biggest and best is Addo Elephant Park, where the elephant population is the densest in the world, at home in an area that consists of five different biomes including forest, sand dune, and open grassland. It’s the only national park in the world where I can see colonies of seals and penguins in the same reserve that protects the Big 5.
Travelling into the heart of Port Elizabeth, its CBD is hardly the dangerous, pulsing machine of Johannesburg, especially for the 80-hectare Settlers Park Nature Reserve; a haven for binocular-wielding birders. But I come here to see that not all cities are the same, and that some are wilder than others and need to stay that way.
I have to go home, but I’ll be back.